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  • Author or Editor: Maria Cristina Fumagalli x
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Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and the Impress of Dante
In this book, Dante, Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott engage in an eloquent and meaningful conversation. Dante’s capacity for being faithful to the collective historical experience and true to the recognitions of the emerging self, the permanent immediacy of his poetry, the healthy state of his language, which is so close to the object that the two are identified, and his adamant refusal to get lost in the wide and open sea of abstraction – all these are shown to have affected, and to continue to affect, Heaney’s and Walcott’s work. The Flight of the Vernacular, however, is not only a record of what Dante means to the two contemporary poets but also a cogent study of Heaney’s and Walcott’s attitude towards language and of their views on the function of poetry in our time. Heaney’s programmatic endeavour to be “adept at dialect” and Walcott’s idiosyncratic redefinition of the vernacular in poetry as tone rather than as dialect – apart from having Dantean overtones – are presented as being associated with the belief that poetry is a social reality and that language is a living alphabet bound to the “opened ground” of the world.

This article focuses on Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry's Description Topographique et Politique de la partie espagnole de l'Isle Saint-Domingue (1796) and his Description Topographique, Physique, Civile, Politique et Historique de la partie française de l'Isle Saint-Domingue (1797). The Descriptions were both written before the beginning of the French Revolution and the 1791 slave revolt in Saint Domingue but were published when the colonial frontier had been abolished (at least de jure if not de facto) by the 1795 Peace of Basle. Overall, the article argues that the two Descriptions are ultimately committed to the (re)inscription of the colonial frontier but intriguingly oscillate between its erasure and its reinforcement. It begins by focusing on Saint-Méry's territorial projections and appropriative landscaping of the Spanish colony; it highlights the important role played by the border in the racial politics of Hispaniola and then revisits Saint-Mery's border politics on the island in the light of the author's conviction that France should reannex Louisiana, given to Spain in 1762.

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

In Derek Walcott’s “White Egrets” (2010) the titular birds play a central role in the conversation that the poet opens up with the ornithological artist John James Audubon. Audubon’s work is the fruit of complex negotiations between life and death, humans and animals, real presences and emblems. Walcott’s examination of these negotiations enables him to reconsider Audubon’s poetics and ethics of representation whilst rearticulating his own. Walcott referred to poetry (and painting) as “Adam’s task of giving things their names”: a statement that might be taken to suggest an exploitative perspective and an anthropocentric approach which dismisses the need to treat nonhumans ethically. “White Egrets,” instead, emphasizes interaction rather than prevarication, showing that “naming” the world can only be significant and regenerative if the “things” to be “named” play their part in the creative process rather than being sealed off from the human world in order to be reified and exploited.

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids


In Morning, Paramin (2016), 51 new poems by Derek Walcott are in dialogue with 51 paintings by Peter Doig. Walcott, also an accomplished painter, has often engaged with the visual arts, but this is the first volume in which every poem “cor-responds” to a painting, offering unique opportunities to examine Walcott’s ekphrastic practices and the way in which they might offer alternatives to current paradigms. Rejecting the paradigm of a paragonal struggle for dominance, I will argue that Morning, Paramin is shaped by an ekphrasis of Relation (resonating with Glissant’s poetics of Relation) in which the verbal and the visual interact in complex ways, exercising mutual reclaimings of agency and transformative dialogues that engender new composite works of art governed by a noncompetitive, nonexploitative approach; as otherness is reconfigured, the right to “opacity” is upheld, and each image and word contribute to a whole bigger than the sum of its parts.

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids