Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



The aim of this dissertation is to question the concept of orality as the natural expression of ancestors in African novels and press for a reading of West African writers, which values their fictional creation as autonomous from their cultural origins. The main purpose of this study is to examine, through series of close textual readings, how francophone West African novels distance themselves from oral tradition by fully assuming literacy as a characteristic of the post-colonial Africa. The first chapter attempts a redefinition of orality, as only a critical discourse aimed at translating the complexity and the suspected hybridity of West African novels. Using examples of American southern folklore from Joel Chandler Harris, Alcée Fortier and Zora Neale Hurston, this study demonstrates how orality is built from hesitations between an intention of authenticity and its literary inventions as a response to oppressive and dominant cultural influences. In this regard, orality appears therefore like a comfortable concept, but an inaccurate reading for its failure to address the cultural and historical dynamism of the West African sub-continent. Therefore, through a reading of Cheikh Hamidou Kane's l'Aventure ambigue, the second chapter "witnesses" the making of authenticity as the simultaneous denial and the consciousness of universalism. Thereby, the recourse to oral tradition appears, as the third chapter emphasizes through examples from Bernard Dadié's Le Pagne noir and Léopold Sédar Senghor's La Belle Histoire de Leuk-le-Lièvre, as a pretext for African writers to make contemporary cultural proposals to their respective communities. In spite of the claim that it derives from speech, orality operates more like the negation of literacy and also as a contemporary review of West Africans' relation to their ancient cultures as the fourth chapter demonstrate with Djibril Tamsir Niane's Soundjata ou l'épopée Mandingue. Finally, the fifth chapter analyzes orality as a strategic writing practice by reading the conflict between speech and writing, in Ahmadou Kourouma's En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages, as a proposal of a creative language which serves as vehicle for the adjustment of Africans in their encounter with western cultures.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

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Committee Chair

Adelaide Russo