The Sentiments & Declarations Series continued on Thursday, Oct. 23, with a discussion, “Hearing The Voice of The Subaltern. Mayotte Capecia’s ‘I Am a Martinican Woman,'” by Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Marie-Hélène Koffi-Tessio.
In 1948 Paris, a young woman from the French Caribbean published the story of her life, received a prize for it and became an instant celebrity. Then, like many before her, she fell into oblivion. In the 1980s and 1990s, American scholars, many of whom saw her work as proof of feminist independence and assertiveness, (re)discovered her texts. “Ironically, further research revealed that, although the stories might have been hers, she was not the writer of the two books published under her name,” notes Koffi-Tessio.
In her lecture, she addressed: how, in a society and at a time when female respectability largely rested on marital status, can a woman twice disenfranchised – as a teenager forced to leave school in order to make a living and as a woman displaced to mainland France — become a landmark in the world of literature? How does a person whose education has been curtailed and who could barely write manage to be recognized as a writer and have her voice heard in the most public way? Additionally, she will delve beyond the “exotic” polishing imposed by the publisher and the public on her texts, to ask where lies Capecia’s “voice”?
The series is cosponsored by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the offices of the President, Provost and Dean of Faculty, and Vice President of Student Affairs at HWS.
The lectures, which are open to the public, are held on Thursday evenings, once a month, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Guntzel Theatre at Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, unless otherwise noted. A van leaves HWS at 4:30 p.m. to bring faculty, staff and students to the lectures.
The next lecture in the Series will take place on Thursday, Nov. 20: “Demystifying the Bricks and Mortar of Main Street: An Early Story of Prefabrication,” by Assistant Professor of Architecture and Chair of Urban Studies Kirin Makker.