Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Jeanne Garane


This thesis seeks to analyze and expound upon Aimé Césaire’s theory of history, choc en retour from Discours sur le colonialisme and situate William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! and André Schwarz-Bart’s La Mulatresse Solitude (and to a lesser extent Le Dernier des Justes and Go Down, Moses) within this theoretical framework; which presents the Holocaust as the culmination (“retrun shock”) of four centuries of colonial violence – from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries – perpetrated by Western powers such as France and the United States. While Césaire’s application to Schwarz- Bart’s texts is more standard – with his two novels explicitly linking Antillean slavery to the Holocaust – the connections between American antebellum slavery, the Civil War and consequent decades of racially motivated discrimination and terror in the United States – as presented by Faulkner – have rarely been viewed through choc en retour. This stems from a dearth of research seeking to build upon Aimé Césaire’s historical connections, and link concentric histories of violence and exploitation to one another. Thus, this thesis takes a genealogical approach, which also employs Glissant’s theorization of nomadisme en flèche. This notion casts imperialism as a perpetually wanton extraction of goods and resources, in which bourgeois states constantly seek out new markets and labor pools in service of metropolitan prosperity; as they engage in increasingly amoral practices (i.e. slavery). Understanding choc en retour in tandem with nomadisme en flèche allows for linkages between seemingly divergent timelines. As a result, this thesis argues that Faulkner and Schwarz-Bart use their novels to show how both France and the United States’ domination of various peoples cast as “the Other” and perpetuation of violent exploitative processes through nomadisme en flèche carries the constant threat of “un veritable choc en retour” – leading to Antillean slave rebellions, the Civil, the Holocaust and today’s perpetually violent neoliberal world.


© 2017, Paul T. McElhinny