Now that you’ve encountered Henry Louis Gates’s concept of “signifyin(g),” reflect on the assigned novel from the Haitian/Canadian author Dany Lafferière.  In what ways do Gates’s ideas apply as an expanded form of Black cultural expression?  How do parody, wordplay, and other tricksterisms empower the marginal characters in the novel?

Please respond in 100 words by Tuesday morning at 9 am.

25 thoughts on “Multiculturalism/Postcolonialism

  1. Dany Lafferière utilizes a specific and purposeful choice of language in this book considered profane or obscene; by writing in this fashion, he is exaggerating the negative connotations our society typically associates with marginalized individuals like the characters he is writing about. In doing so, however, the meaning of these situations becomes altered, and the “normal” language becomes a type of specific figurative language almost mocking the “normal” interpretations. This represents the phenomenon of Signifyin(g) brought up by Henry Louis Gates, which describes this process of creating double-meanings as a unique form of black cultural expression which almost becomes its own type of satire in this book.

  2. Laferriere uses a lot of language that would be seen as obscene and offensive by today’s standards, just like in The Signifying Monkey. This seems to reinforce the fact that this novel is a satire. The plot of the novel is about white girls really wanting to have sex with black men, but there are layers of racial commentary hidden in the text. This demonstrates the concept of signifying, a language that people who aren’t black won’t really understand if they take it at face value. The obscenity feels like it’s just there with no purpose. However, if you look deeper, you see the true meaning as satire and commentary.

  3. This novel expands greatly on the stereotypical, over-masculinated view of Black lover’s- which is clearly seen by the elegy for the “Great Black Lover.” The title itself is extremely provocative and satirical, replacing politically correct terms for “negro”, this being more obvious when the title is kept in it’s original french. The french culture surrounding the black culture in this novel also makes the novel more satirical. Such an erotic expression is an outrage in stereotypical french culture, creating the double meanings (signifying vs signifyin) in Laferriere’s work.

  4. The signifying monkey by Henry Louis Gates is a theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism describing the method of conceit as an expression by black culture. Dany Lafferière’s language in “how to make love to a negro without getting tired” is like that of the signifying monkey, it is raunchy and coarse, which is demonstrated in the title. Dany Lafferière emphasizes veiled racial stereotypes within society. “How to make love to a negro without getting tired” validates the idea that “signifying” presents. The purpose of signifying is to use language as access for people who are not black to understand. The language in the book empowers black men by the way Dany Lafferière writes about them.

  5. Henry Louis Gates argues “signifyin(g)” to be a communicative technique based on word games and indirection, which he presents as “the trope” of black writing; Dany Laferrière uses signifyin(g) extensively to build his book’s satire. For instance, the observation “a black with a book denotes the triumph of Judeo-Christian civilization” (35) mocks “Miz Literature” and her limited worldview by attributing the thought to her, but simultaneously examines the larger structures of colonialism. Statements that communicate social critique via context rather than denotation are frequent in the book: this is a language the narrator relies upon heavily. As Gates argues, games of meanings such as these are a uniting factor of black art and literature and are used as a tool to critique racism.

  6. By writing a novel with a title that is seen as strongly obscene in western cultures and then continuing to expand this further into his writings, Lafferiere creates a satirical novel that stresses the stereotypes of an extra masculine black “lover,” set in the stereotypical French culture. The idea of setting black culture within French culture helps create Gates double meanings of the Signifying and the signifyin(g). Lafferiere uses the signifying to create language that can be understood by both black and non black people who are reading this novel and expands on the racial commentary that he makes throughout the whole novel and even just in the title, “How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired.”

  7. Gates defines signifying as a way to say one thing but mean the opposite. In this book, we see Laferrière use the character “Miz Literature” who is at first seen as a ditzy girl who is a part of this stereotyping culture and makes her an icon of what is known as the danger of the single-sided story. Viewing the main character as almost primitive and unable to take care of himself, uncovers the real problem of taking away the value of this person and making them this fetishized version she sees them as. The author uses sexual descriptors and satire to deliver meaning to us, and we can uncover this narrative on race.

  8. Lafferiere manipulates the language throughout the book in order to distort the status of the characters in the book. For example, he uses the term “miz” instead of “Miss” deliberately, in what feels to be an attempt to level the societal standings between himself and the women he has sex with. He also prefers to refer to himself using derogatory terms, instead of using more dignified self-descriptors. This also seems to be a play on the power relations in the story. By using such terms, he presents himself as lower status, making the act of making love to higher status white women seem like a much more noteworthy event.

  9. Gates ‘big thing’ in The Signifying Monkey is use words/signifiers to say one thing but mean another. It is almost like dramatic irony in real life where only the educated audience knows the true meaning of the text and not the individual receiving the verbal transmission. Laferriere employs the same techniques in his novel, especially in the title where he uses language that is raunchy and shocking but also compelling to the point where you simply must read the book to find out what he means. Signifyin(g) is also seen, most notably, with the character of “Miz Literature” who is a ditzy girl (#irony), but like with most things in postcolonialism it isn’t so much what the words strung together mean, but the subtext and deeper meaning to be garnered from the language.

  10. Dany Laferriere has constructed a novel full of word-play and sardonic humor. When we look at this book from the perspective of post colonialist like Gates, we can see that it is chocked full of examples of the Signifyin(g). One important thing to note is that the humor within this text has strong undertones of self-deprecation that, for the most part, can be seen as a sort of offense to racism (as it points out common racist stereotypes and uses them to his “advantage”). This can especially be seen in every interaction between the narrator and his “Miz Literature”.

  11. Henry Louis Gates’s idea of “signifyin(g)” is present in Lafferière’s novel through the way in which he writes the narrator’s attitude and internal dialogue. The sarcasm and mockery that the narrator displays could serve as a way to undermine the majority and empower his character. An example of this is after “Miz Literature” has filled his glass with wine, the narrator remarks, “Fulfillment is mine. The world is opening up to my desires”(23). The satirical language in the story, as expressed by the narrator, makes readers aware of a society where there is a structure that needs undermining.

  12. “The Signifying monkey” by Henry Louis Gates Speaks of signifyin as a method of communication, directing the reader’s attention to the contextual and connotative importance of words and phrases. “How to make love to a negro without getting tired” by Dany Laferriere seemed to favor this method rather than simply spelling out what he wished to portray. A fine example, as many of my classmates have mentioned, can be seen with the character “Miz Literature” who is described as a person with the luxury of being naïve though attending a school which the upper-class favors. Rather than simply using Miss, she is referred to as “Miz”. This not only refers to noble roots with the denotative meaning of a proper title, but suggests a separation of social classes between her and the main character. The main character often refers to himself using rough language, perhaps further portraying the class separation seen in the books setting. Laferriere seems to favor language and acts often deemed as vulgar to outline the unseen interpretations beneath the text, as well as provide a satirical hook to capture the attention of the reader.

  13. When combined with Gates’s concept of “signifyin(g),” the satirical nature of Lafferière’s work represents a “linguistic disobedience” to racial stereotypes society often holds regarding black males, especially those in interracial relationships. The perhaps shocking obscenity present in the novel is a refusal and resistance to these false ideas since it directly addresses and invalidates them through wordplay and irony. The marginal characters in the novel are empowered by their use of black vernacular in an artistic, playful way, connoting deeper subversion of the divide between racial cultures, which in turn expands the work as a strong expression of black culture.

  14. In “How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired,” Laferriére uses the Gates concept of signifying and “signifyin(g)” to a create a satirical look at racial stereotypes and how it influences the world around these characters. The language provides an examination on how these stereotypes interact with each other, especially in the case of the interactions with Miz Literature. On page 24, he talks about Miz Literature as a symbol of the means her (and her background) has to send her to McGill, a symbol of a “clean, clear conscience.” However, the narrator describes himself as the opposite of her, “No conscience. No paradise lost. No promised land.”

  15. As a white reader, this novel has its challenges. It comes from a cultural perspective different from my own, and requires a closer reading in order to understand it completely. Upon first glance, this novel is obscene, sexist, and derogatory (The Great Mandala of the Western World chapter is what I’m specifically referencing). But it’s clear that the author is deliberately provoking this “knee jerk” reaction. Much like the trickster parody of “The Tempest” this novel seeks to offend. The impoverished marginalized characters of the novel are empowered by their ability to offend. Through the use of sarcasm and vulgarities, the characters break apart the institutions that hold them down. This institution is set up by post colonialism, the legacy of which is arguably baked into every part of society today. Offensive humor and language is a way to revolt and push back against the oppressor. It openly mocks and challenges those in power and the structures that keep them in power. Mocking this system is a form of expression.

  16. Laferriére employs the concept of “signifying” throughout his novel in multiple ways, the most prominent being how the narrator treats the character Miz Literature. On page 23 the narrator basks in the idea of being waited upon by her, a white woman, is causing him to feel fulfilled and that, “the world is opening up to [his] desires.” Not only is this a parody of the way that most background black characters are portrayed, but the narrator himself is aware of this subversive role. This keys the audience in on that the narrator is aware of his social standing as a black man and that characters like Miz Literature are ignorant to the privileges that they hold at the expense of black individuals. Therefore, signifying to the audience both the narrator’s surface emotions as well as the underlying critic of white privilege and the awareness of colonialism’s impact in the black community.

  17. The novel how “to make love to a negro without getting tired” displays the cultural and racial aspects of thought greatly. Laferriere not only focuses on the dynamics of the different races, but how our character Man feels towards it. Man is fully away of the view that is placed upon him as the “black buck” stereotype, or as black male who is sexually desired. The protagonist is a aware of this role and holds this knowledge through the story.As the readers we view Man’s sexuality mixed with his character, which leads to a understanding of how he others the women he encounters. He does this through his naming such as Miz Mystic, Miz Literature, or Miz Redhead. Man’s constant sexual encounters shows he doesn’t truly connect with them, not really. Grant it the encounters weren’t necessarily meant to create permanent relationships. It seems as though both Man and the women he’s meet are using each other for sexual education.

  18. Dany Laferrière uses Henry Louis Gates’ idea of “Signifyin(g)” (with a capital ‘S’) throughout his novel. Singifyin(g) makes it so you can’t be 100% sure that the words that you’re reading actually mean what they say on the page, if that makes sense. It ensures that everything has a double meaning. Just look at the title of Laferrière’s novel. It has the word “negro” in it, which to someone unfamiliar with signifying (lowercase ‘s’) would immediately throw up a giant red flag and make them say something along the lines of “whoa, this book is probably SUPER RACIST”. But Laferrière’s “Signifyin(g)” and sarcastic wordplay makes it so the word “negro” has a different meaning for black people than it does for, say, white people who don’t understand signifyin(g) (lowercase ‘s’).

  19. I don’t know how to make a reply after reading the above comments that goes beyond “I agree etc.” Laferriere uses a lot of vulgarity and bluntness to get his point in order to poke fun at western society’s fascination (obsession) with black guys as many have said, which helps quite a lot in putting it in your face and making you take note (such as the title’s ability to make you pay attention). I doubt this is relevant, but it’s interesting that in ’87 when he wrote this novel, he’s talking about quite a lot of stuff (scenarios dealing with race dynamics) that has recently had a resurgence in the age of social media. I know the whole mighty black lover thingy has been around forever—but lately it seems the whole “fear” aspect of that has been a large part in the collective rhetoric of racists and such (not for nothing but I don’t think anyone is more obsessed with a black dude’s **** and what he does with it more than a white racist dude)—or I just read a lot of stupid comments online.

  20. Gates’ Signifyin(g) represents the “rhetorical structures of black vernacular”. Laferrière uses wordplay and the idea of Signifyin(g) throughout his novel. In “actually, the British brought [the smile] back from one of their Japanese campaigns”, Laferrière uses parody and the euphemism of “campaigns”, emphasizing the satirical nature of the text. Additionally, Laferrière uses “Miz” instead of “Miss”, which is similar to Gates’ Signifyin(g) versus signifying. Gates and Laferrière do this to add a verbal element to their written text, showcasing how these words may be said within black vernacular. This comparison highlights the nature of double meanings apparent throughout the text. Laferrière incorporates the idea of Signifyin(g) and wordplay throughout his novel to comment on racial inequality.

  21. This book is pretty gross. It definitely uses the gross factor and the obscenity of what is being done to hide his deeper messages and themes. This ties into the concepts of “Signifying” and “signifyin(g)” that Gates mentions. The language used works to undermine what our expectations are, and to throw off the themes of racial and social inequality. This story shows us, through several different points, that the sexual drive in each chapter shows more about the social inequality of those involved. These differing races and how they view themselves and each other show how language can be used for either “Signifying” or “Signifyin(g)”. Even the title would appear racist on first glance, but upon deeper inspection is not real, it is simply a false flag of something because of the authors sarcastic wit.

  22. In “How to Make Love to a Negro without Getting Tired,” it is clear to me that Laferriere emphasizes the theme of Gates’ Signifyin(g) theme-by presenting extreme uses of language that mocks (using “miz” instead of miss) and questions his readers. For instance, he uses terms that his audience isn’t used to reading, but is familiar with due to society. (ex. yellow people, white trash, nigger, ect) But also, we know that his audience has to be educated in order to know his double meanings; this theory relates back to Gates.
    The main metaphor, (the title) the book immediately throws a stereotype in the face of his crowd. A black man is shown as extensively masculine and powerful in a relation to a “blond-haired, pink-cheeked” white girl. Unfortunately, a crowd can understand this due to a stereotypical society that is present today. See why the language needs to be offensive? It’s so people of the opposite race can understand why “these groups” are so offensive and disgusting to come across.
    I enjoyed reading this book, because of how extremely offensive it was, and how it used language that is hidden from literature today. Personally, I feel like the characters in this novel came out to be rather interesting to read about just because of how the wordplay was used. I liked the fact that I felt like I was reading about someone real and the faults that went along with them. Nothing was sugarcoated, and this made it easier to relate back to Gates’ “Signifying Monkey” reading.

  23. Dany Laferriere uses offensive and suggestive wordplay and an example would be the “Signifying Monkey”. Just looking at the title “How to Make Love to a Nergo without getting tired” shows the suggestive wordplay. He uses this language for people who are not black to understand what he is trying to signify. This novel is intended to empower black man in a society where they think they don’t fit in.

  24. The author uses language that can be looked at as offensive, especially in “Signifying Monkey”. It is a disgusting novel which uses gross language. It goes through different points of views which shows the reader the views in different racial and culture points. In “How to Make Love to a Negro” he uses a lot of stereotypes targeted towards the race. This was a difficult read because of how offensive it was and it was hard to not shut the book because of everything the author wrote.

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