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La couleur du temps dans la culture afro-américaine

Claudine Raynaud

Résumés/Summaries par ordre de publication dans le volume

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Françoise CLARY: «Black Muslims, Red Muslims»: Histoire et réalité culturelle

1Group consciousness is a form of consolation derived from a shared sense of discrimination. Rooted in the structure of racial tension, the Black Muslims have made black the ideal, the ultimate value. They proclaim the black man to be the primogenitor of all civilization, the Chosen of Allah, while deprecating white and white culture.

2This paper aims to throw light on the immediate challenge that being a Muslim means in America. For those individuals-whether they be ‘Blacks’ or ‘Reds’ – who wish to avoid the social meaning of their minority-group status, claiming to be a Muslim helps define one’s identity by contrast to the majority, demonstrating that Blacks’ unity or Reds’ unity is possible and potent. Yet the Black Muslim movement cannot be dismissed as simply another reaction to the traditional expression of race consciousness. This article examines the scope and impact of various aspects of Islamic worldview as they are expressed in African American communities with a focus on the interplay and tension between nation-building and group affiliations.

Maïca SANCONIE: La Couleur noire au coeur de l’esthétique afro-américaine des années 60

3In the 1960’s, the color black was at the heart of the new issue of Black aesthetics. This paper discusses three events where the color black was considered to be a central value: the creation of the Spiral group in New York in 1963; the creation of the “Black Light” series by Faith Ringgold from 1967 to 1969; and Raymond Saunders’ manifesto entitled ”Black is a Color–I’m Color Blind”, first published in 1967 in Art Magazine. The attempts to define or use the color black both as a political symbol and an artistic emblem failed to give birth to an aesthetic theory and led to a categorization of African-American artists in the ethnic field, a process denounced by Raymond Saunders as alienating. But the color black, used by several artists to represent black skin and blackness, has come to signify the physical African-American presence. Today, artists and curators choose the terms Black Aesthetics and Post-Black Aesthetics as a cultural reference to define the works of African-American artists.

Cécile COTTENET: Charles W. Chestnutt et la couleur de la critique

4Charles W. Chesnutt emerged on the literary scene in 1899 and was soon hailed as a pioneer of the color line. Indeed he never stopped exploring this frontier in his fiction, knowing all the while that just one drop of black blood could keep a man from crossing this line. As a mulatto of very light complexion himself, he could not elude the question of racial identity: did he consider himself as a Negro, a mulatto, or rather, as just an American writer? This article purports to show how Chesnutt evaded all definite classification, and was finally, perhaps conveniently, labelled Negro writer in spite of his true identity. After a brief introduction to Chesnutt and his work, this paper focuses on the author’s own racial definition of himself, comparing it with the race categories defined by society at the turn of the XXth century, and more specifically those defined by the census. Finally it aims at showing the uneasiness of the critics, unable to decide on Chesnutt’s “color”.

Anne-Marie PAQUET-DEYRIS: The Gullah Kaleidoscope: Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991)

5Daughters of the Dust, film de l’auteur et cinéaste afro-américaine Julie Dash, a été porté fin 2004 au catalogue des films les plus remarquables de ces dernières années par la Bibliothèque du Congrès à Washington. Sa beauté visuelle envoûtante et son rythme lent et singulier représentent sous un angle inédit l’histoire diasporique du peuple Ibo, transporté dans les fers à bord des négriers depuis la côte d’Afrique jusqu’aux îles Gullah au large de la Caroline du Sud. Récit étrange de la dernière journée en 1902 où la famille Peazant est rassemblée avant sa traversée vers le continent, il se construit à l’encontre de la plupart des stéréotypes noirs du cinéma dominant. Pour la première fois peut-être devant la caméra d’une femme, les Afro-Américains sont véritablement sujets d’un développement narratif traversé de flash-back et de prolepses, qui se structure à partir d’un point de vue spécifiquement noir sur la culture américaine.

Wendy HARDING: Toni Morrison’s Art of “Pondering Color” in Beloved

6L’étude des couleurs dans Beloved montre la façon dont Toni Morrison reconfigure les diverses couleurs dans des ensembles plus complexes que l’opposition, idéologiquement marquée, entre le blanc et le noir. Bien que l’on trouve de nombreuses références au blanc et au noir, les deux extrêmes du spectre revêtent des connotations inattendues. Paradoxalement, elles tendent à effacer plutôt qu’à renforcer les oppositions raciales, tout en complexifiant les référents raciaux auxquels elles sont traditionnellement associées. En fait, dans Beloved, on découvre un spectre beaucoup plus large. L’étude des associations entre les différentes couleurs, événements, modalités et cadres du roman permet de cerner avec plus de précision le symbolisme des couleurs chez Morrison. L’importance des couleurs chez Morrison réside dans la façon dont elle les laisse coexister : elle les associe comme s’il s’agissait d’un « patchwork » ou d’une étoffe bariolée; elle les combine comme les plantes dans le jardin de Sethe (toutes ces images sont des icônes métafictionnelles) de façon à ce que les couleurs entrent en relation les unes avec les autres. Finalement, Morrison délaisse ces modèles métafictionnels au profit de la narration. Beloved « n’est pas une histoire à transmettre », comme un héritage familial, mais une histoire à reprendre et à relire.

Sophie VALLAS: Fou noir/reine blanche: L’échiquier des premiers romans de Chester Himes

7Before obtaining recognition and fame with his detective fiction commissioned by Duhamel for his «Série Noire», Chester Himes wrote several novels which failed to turn him into the young, angry but fashionable black writer he dreamed of becoming. This paper focuses on three of them, all dark, bitter and highly autobiographical, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), Lonely Crusade (1947) and The End of a Primitive (1956). One of the common points to these works is Himes’ obsessional treatment of the physical and sexual relationships between white women and black men. Convinced that «the American black man is the most neurotic, complicated, schizophrenic, unanalyzed, anthropologically advanced specimen of mankind in the history of the world», Himes demonstrates that the white woman is one of the main reasons accounting for the American black’s growing madness. From one novel to the next he patiently studies these relationships which America has considered as unnatural, and therefore tantalizing, ever since the early years of slavery. Himes’ black heroes as thus pawns on the chessboard which the white Queen, with the impunity that a perverse society gives her, manipulates and torments, dragging them into more and more threatening and sordid dances.

Isabelle ROUFFINEAU: The Color Purple ou la féminitude pourpre

8Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple offers a powerful portrayal of womanism, a term she herself defined in In Search of our Mothers' Gardens. But this womanism has a color, it is purple and multi-layered, as the very essence of feminity. The novel depicts the awakening of the heroine and the advent of the female subject who finally reclaims both a body and a voice. The Color Purple stages as well the fulfilment of another color, the blues, a true synaesthetic experience. Finally, one of the greatest achievements of the novel is to present both sexual and textual liberations through experimenting on the literary fabric.

Annie-Paule MIELLE DE PRINSAC: «Fair is foul, and foul is fair»: la couleur du désir dans Paradise et Love de Toni Morrison

9Morrison has repeatedly expressed the desire to erase all references to skin color in her novels, in order to explore the truth of human emotions without having to specify the race of the character to the reader. «Racism,» she says, «makes you deny the real world of your emotions». Macbeth’s famous line «Fair is Foul, and Foul is fair» possibly translates the deepest paradox of America; the equation not only stands for the mimetic relation between races, but also for the mechanism that underlies all desire once the principle of equality between all men has been accepted. Such mimetic attraction is at work in Booker T. Washington’s ideology of racial uplift, it pervades the whole community when prosperity becomes accessible to all and enables a few to rise on the social ladder.

10In Paradise, as well as in Love, the underlying uniformity of such mechanism can be seen controlling all the passions, all individualistic attempts, inevitably leading the characters to violent rivalry. Peace is restored and truth is revealed only when Death temporarily blocks the whole process. Then, language can really play its part as a mediator among men.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2005

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