Creating the Island Imaginary: Corsican Poetry in French (1870–1960)

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This article examines the representation of Corsican identity in the French-language poetry of Corsicans based either on the island or the French mainland. Corsican writing in French increases significantly after 1880, prompted by the Third Republic's efforts to create a united French identity including all the country's regions. From the outset, these poets enthusiastically embrace a dual identity—national and regional—which becomes even more French centred against the backdrop of two World Wars, as the focus on a common enemy draws the regions even closer to national unity. While they sing the praises of Corsica in classical French verse forms, and place the heroes of Corsican history alongside those of the French nation, all the poets rely on the same set of reductive, nostalgic topoi to describe their island: the quaint, archaic way of life, the wild natural landscape, pride in their ancestors and local folklore, all of which contrast with the nation's values of progress and modernity. The author argues that such self-representations conform to the preconceptions of the dominant French centre, through whose ideologically conditioning gaze the assimilated margins see themselves, in a striking parallel with the self-exoticising tendencies of Antillean writers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-91
JournalModern & Contemporary France
Issue number1
Early online date1 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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