Deconstructing Caliban’s Genealogy of ‘Otherness’ in Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête: The Figuration of the Barbarian, Wild Man, and Cannibal in the Western Literary Canon

in Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild
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In this essay, Giulia Champion provides a historical overview of how figures barbarous, monstrous, and wild can tangle and overlap. Tracing these figures though Euripides’ Medea, Iphigenia Among the Taurians, Electra, and Iphigenia at Aulis in classical Greece, Sir Gawain and the Greene Knight and Sir Orfeo in medieval times, and Columbus’ Journal of the First Voyage, Montaigne’s “Des Cannibales,” Jean de Léry’s History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene in the Renaissance, Champion finds them converging in the construction of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Césaire’s later adaptation of the play. Through a certain mastery of language, Caliban works to overcome the burden of these accumulated genealogies. This and Césaire’s own rewriting of a canonical play offer an opportunity to consider both the weight of historical representations and linguistic practices of resistance.

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