Volume 26, Issue 1/2, 2020
Anjuli I. Gunaratne
The Tracées of René Ménil
Language, Critique, and the Recuperation of History in Literature
The figure of the tracée is significant for Ménil’s understanding of spatio-temporality, an understanding upon which rest, so this essay argues, his concepts of critique, poetic knowledge, and literary form. The argument takes as its starting point the work Ménil did to conceptualize history as the poesis of recuperation. In doing so, the essay argues for a renewed understanding of Ménil’s contribution to Caribbean philosophy as a whole. One of the most important components of this contribution, the essay claims, is the manner in which Ménil shifts the focus from how linguistic and cultural identity forms in the Antilles to how history appears. What this means is that Ménil works to displace the centrality of folklore and orality to the construction of Antillean identity in order to imagine how Antillean culture comes also to be expressed non-discursively. In Ménil’s work, this displacement occurs primarily by his re-thinking the relationship of architecture to literature. Re-thinking this relationship entails for Ménil recuperating the traces of an Antillean “past passed over,” which unexpectedly appear in both architectural structures and literary works. Paying attention to this particular and peculiar intellectual focus in Ménil’s work, this essay ultimately reconsiders the roles played by both discursive and non-discursive arts in the constitution of a decolonized aesthetics in the Antilles.