Quebec Studies

Declining the Stereotype in the Work of Stanley Lloyd Norris, Max Dorsinville, and Dany Laferrière

Quebec Studies (2005), 39, (1), 55–78.

Abstract

55 Declining the Stereotype in the Work of Stanley Lloyd Norris, Max Dorsinville, and Dany Laferrière Susan Ireland Grinnell College Il y avait un mythe du nègre qu'il fallait démolir coûte que coûte. (Frantz Fanon, 94) Les gens ne savent pas ce que c'est que le jazz.... cela fait partie d'une mythologie à détruire. (Max Dorsinville, James Wait 227) It has often been observed that colonialism, like racism, is an "operation of discourse" in that it determines the position of colonial subjects "by incorporating them in a system of representation" (Tiffin and Lawson 3). In this sense, as Frantz Fanon has observed, "l'âme noire est une construction du Blanc" (11). This "construction" depends to a large extent on the deployment of stereotypes that purport to describe Africans, but rather serve as a form of containment: "Imperial textuality appropriates, distorts, erases, but it also contains" (Tiffin and Lawson 6, their emphasis).1 An expression of the fixed and the infinitely repeatable, the stereotype was thus linked in the colonial context to the creation of a series of essentialist categories that defined the relations between colonizer and colonized in terms of immutable opposites and relegated Africans to the realm of darkness and irrationality. In recent years, as part of the broader enterprise of "de-scribing" empire,2 many authors have sought ways in which to contest stereotypical representations of formerly colonized peoples. In Quebec, Stanley Lloyd Norris (La Pucelle, 1993), Max Dorsinville (James Wait et les lunettes noires, 1995), and Dany Laferrière (Comment faire l'amour avec un Nègre sans se fatiguer, 1985) have all engaged with the stereotype as a form of colonial discourse whose effects are still felt today. As such, their works constitute good examples of what Mireille Rosello calls "declining the stereotype" 3 — taking up a stereotype and "depriving it of its harmful potential by highlighting its very nature" (11). Norris, Dorsinville, and Laferrière all portray the relationship between a black man and a white woman in the context of Haitian immigration to Quebec in order to "decline" stereotypes of black men. In each text, stereotypes of the racial Other are confronted, reappropriated, and revised as the authors' "declining" of the stereotype, which plays on the two meanings of the word "decline," both "recites" and "refuses" racial clichés. Although the styles and approaches adopted in the novels are very different, the three protagonists all resist fixed forms of their identities and seek to disrupt the sense of orderliness created by clichés. By so doing, they address the all-important questions raised by Rosello: "not only 'What can I do against stereotypes' but also 'What can I do with a stereotype?'" (13). Québec Studies, Volume 39, Spring/Summer 2005

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Ireland, Susan