Sounding Off : Rhythm, Music, and Identity in West African and Caribbean Francophone Novels

Julie Huntington

Intrigued by “texted” sonorities–the rhythmic, musical sounds of language and orality in narratives–Julie Huntington examines the everyday noises represented in Francophone novels. Huntington argues that sounds–from footsteps, heartbeats, and drumbeats–in West African and Caribbean works provide contextual cues and commentaries about identity. She investigates the linguistic functions of how music is represented in novels such as Senegalese authors Ousmane Sembene’s God’s Bits of Wood and Aminata Sow Fall’s The Call of the Arenas, Ivoirian writer Ahmadou Kourouma’s The Suns of Independence, Guadeloupean writers Simone Schwarz-Bart’s and Maryse Conde’s respective titles Between Two Worlds and Crossing the Mangrove and Martinician writer Patrick Chamoiseau’s Solibo the Magnificent among other books. The voices, cadences, and sonorities in these texts provide a rich soundtrack to the characters’ lives, and in the process, frame the novel with a rhythmic polyphony that help form social and cultural identities. As each writer–like a composer–creates a distinct soundscape, the transpoetic, and transcultural links they construct resonate.