Sounding Off

Rhythm, Music, and Identity in West African and Caribbean Francophone Novels

By Julie Huntington
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Temple University Press, 2009

ISBN 9781439900314

256 Pages


Intrigued by "texted" sonorities—the rhythms, musics, ordinary noises, and sounds of language in narratives—Julie Huntington examines the soundscapes in contemporary Francophone novels. Through an ethnomusicological perspective, Huntington argues that the range of sounds—from footsteps, heartbeats, and drumbeats—represented in West African and Caribbean works provides a context in which identities are shaped and negotiated.

Sounding Off attends to how sounds function in such as Ousmane Sembene's God's Bits of Wood (Senegal), and Patrick Chamoiseau's Solibo Magnificent (Martinique). These writers—like composers—create distinct soundscapes, constructing transpoetic and transcultural links that resonate. The voices, cadences, and sonorities in these narratives create a rich soundtrack to the characters' lives, framing them with a rhythmic polyphony that helps form social and cultural identities. Huntington’s analysis shows how these writers and others challenge the aesthetic and political conventions that privilege written texts over orality and invite readers-listeners to participate in critical dialogues—to sound off, as it were, in local and global communities.




1. Rhythm and Transcultural Poetics
Rhythm and Transculture

2. Rhythm and Reappropriation in God’s Bits of Wood and The Suns of Independence
Language and the Language of Music
Rhythm and Reappropriation in the Novel
Instrumentaliture at Work
Rhythm and Transformation
Ordinary and Extraordinary Rhythms

3. Rhythm, Music, and Identity in L’appel des arènes and Ti Jean L’horizon
Rhythm, Music, Subjectivity, and the Novel
Rhythm and Identity in L’appel des arènes
Rhythm and Identity in Ti Jean L’horizon
Rethinking Rootedness

4. Music and Mourning in Crossing the Mangrove and Solibo Magnificent
Memory, Mourning, and Mosaic Identities
Rhythm, Music, and Identity as Process
The Sounds of Death and Mourning
Configuring Rhythmic and Musically Mediated Identities

Concluding Remarks
Works Cited


Julie Huntington is an Assistant Professor of French at Marymount Manhattan College.

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