Tyler Grand Pre is a doctoral student and ICLS affiliate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His research interests revolve around the intersections of language, translation, and space in African-American, African-diasporic, as well as francophone and Caribbean literature and culture. His master’s thesis entitled “Inflecting the French: The Poetics of Intersubjectivity in Aimé Césaire’s Notes of a Return to the Native Land,” which received an honorable mention in the Wetzsteon Prize for Best MA Essay in 20th- and 21st century poetry, explores the way Aimé Césaire rearticulates the formal desires, ontological exclusions, and grammatical relationships of apostrophic address through a vexed, lyric encounter with the colonial infrastructures and cartographies of Martinique. Given his interest in the semiotics and discursive valences of mapping, he has begun practicing radical cartographic practices while participating in a workshop hosted by the Center for Spatial Methods of Research at Columbia. Aside from the translation work he has done for the NGO Women’s Global Education Project, Tyler translated the article “The Historical Origins of Sartre’s Account of Temporality” by Grégory Cormann from French to English for The Sartrean Mind (Routledge, 2020).
Concept: Elliptical Ontology
The term “elliptical ontology” developed particularly in my reading of the poetics of intersubjectivity at work in Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a return to the native land. This long poem’s vexed, lyric encounter with the colonial reality of Martinique is involved in an immanent critique of Enlightenment universalism whose subjective grammar Césaire inflects for the discursive purposes of negritude. At the heart of this (inter)subjective and anti-colonial disruption of the universal and re-conception of global relation are the ontological questions of blackness—that is, black (in)existence in white metaphysical structures, systems, and technologies of representation. The term “ellipse” comes from the Greek word “meaning lack, [which] applies to the grammatical ellipse, since something is omitted, and to the geometric ellipse, since it lacks something that would make it a perfect circle” (Dictionnaire Littré). Therefore, elliptical ontology, on one level, speaks to the processes of the violent onto-epistemological negation as well as overdetermination that render the “stable,” transparent centers of European discourse and self-hood at once possible and, as Denise Ferreira da Silva notes, unstable (Toward a Global Idea of Race, 33). Then, in line with both the grammatical and mathematical definitions of ellipse, this concept interrogates the related grammar of (onto-epistemological, social, legal, economic) dispossession at work in the numerous fields or, as Tiffany Lethabo King notes, “technologies of conquest”—in the case of Césaire’s poem and the scope of this presentation, linguistic and cartographic representation (Black Shoals, 77).