Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Jeanne Garane

Second Advisor

Alexander Beecrof

Abstract

Francophone West Africa, in the aftermath of colonization, found itself at a crossroads between the necessity to address the problems of neo-colonialism while affirming its cultural identity and the need to embrace a universal message. That dilemma is not shared by literary critics who regard the work of early generation writers merely as an “empire writing back.” In the many classifications of West African literature, the emphasis is oftentimes put either on the importance of a counter-discourse that also rejects Western aesthetics or on the effects of post-independence disillusionment. This study argues that early francophone West African literary productions took a more universal and humanistic trajectory. The works that are presented in this analysis – such as Amadou Hampâté Bâ’s The Fortunes of Wangrin and The Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane; and films such as Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki and Black Girl by Ousmane Sembene – constitute key examples of literature and cinematic works that have defined postcolonial discourse in francophone West Africa. These two novels, because of their open endedness, have always been considered ambiguous; as for the two films, they have been subject to conflicting interpretations that cannot look past the idea of Third World Cinema.

This confusion is due to the fact that these works share the same Bakhtinian dialogic framework that is articulated through concepts such as polyphony, heteroglossia, the chronotope, and the carnival, which critics do not usually associate with African literature. Therefore, this analysis shows that the malleability of early francophone West African fiction and the uniqueness of its cinematic tradition have blazed the trail for a literary tradition that, not only has defined West African postcolonial discourse but has also made it safe from the major criticisms postcolonial theory faces, that of its irrelevance to the condition of the postcolony and the label of being an appendix to Western poststructuralist theory.

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