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Abstract

This essay examines how Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal employs repetition, anaphora, and other rhetorical devices to embody the way in which Martinique’s explosive, revolutionary cultural richness is generated as a response to conditions of oppression. The repetitious and anaphoric qualities of Césaire’s poetry are employed at the start of the poem to emphasize the tedium of an oppressed landscape, and the use of repetition and anaphora gives form to the repetitive, slavish labor of Martinicans in rum distilleries and the everyday life of the classroom, where Christian missionaries drill Martinicans with the same lessons despite their exhaustion and lack of interest. However, in the same way that Aimé Césaire’s literary movement négritude uses a negative word for an oppressed racial group and recovers a positive cultural meaning from an initially degrading vocabulary, the repetitive and anaphoric qualities of Césaire’s poem develop into a beautifully concatenating style which embodies an explosive landscape of abundance and revolution. In Césaire, repetition embodies both the oppressive monotony of manual labor and the concatenating rhythm of the tam-tam and African griots, or bards. This essay examines how the consistent application of repetition and anaphora is used in the poem to show how the same post-colonial environment can be remade from a landscape of oppression, where slavery has its modern correlate in underpaid manual labor, into a landscape of explosive revolution and abundance which not only overcomes oppression, but uses the pressure caused by oppression to erupt thrillingly from the established normative values and aesthetics of European culture.

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