CFP: Special Issue of The CLR James Journal on the work of René Ménil (Abstracts due March 1 2016)

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The CLR James Journal

This special issue of The CLR James Journal seeks papers that situate the work of Martinican philosopher and critic René Ménil within the wider fields of Caribbean intellectual, political, and literary history. Ménil is perhaps best known for co-founding the journals Légitime défense (1932) and Tropiques (1941-45) alongside other Martinican intellectuals such as Etienne Léro and Aimé and Suzanne Césaire. These early publications famously dealt with Surrealist anticolonial aesthetics as well as Afro-Caribbean folklore and literature, yet Ménil's body of writing both reflects and expands on this constellation of themes. His early work includes essays on Surrealist approaches to Caribbean poetry and critiques of colonial literary exoticism, but the scope of his writing went on to become much broader: his oeuvre addresses the question of Martinican independence, jazz music, stylistics and the Caribbean novel, créolité, Marxism and anticolonial literary forms, and the idea of modernity as an aesthetic problem. Despite this rich eclecticism, Ménil's writing has been overshadowed by the towering literary-philosophical figures of Césaire and Edouard Glissant, to whom so much critical work has been devoted.

Our special issue will focus on Ménil's contributions to (post)colonial Caribbean thought and criticism. It will also remain attentive to how current debates reflect and reshape the diversity of his thought. How does Ménil's work provoke us to reevaluate the legacies of Négritude and Surrealism in the Caribbean? How do his theories of poetics and aesthetics relate to and diverge from those of other major figures like Glissant, Derek Walcott, or Kamau Brathwaite? What do contemporary studies of Caribbean fiction owe to Ménil's thought? What does his writing have to tell us about the past, present, and future of political art in the region? And how does his work shape or reshape current notions of 'cultural language' or cultural expression for the postcolonial and post-departmental Caribbean?

Submissions might address these and related questions by exploring the following (by no means exhaustive) list of topics:

Intellectual histories of Caribbean Marxism

Theories and histories of the novel

Francophone Caribbean independence movements

Poetry and poetics

Theories of modernity

Political art in the Caribbean

Cultural expression and cultural autonomy

The conjunction of aesthetics with the challenges and paradoxes of politics

All completed manuscripts are expected to conform to the CLR James Journal style guidelines. Prospective contributors should send their 300-500 word abstracts by March 1 2016. Final versions of accepted papers will be due October 31 2016. Please send abstracts and all inquiries to Justin Izzo ( and Adlai Murdoch (