Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Department

Document Type



My dissertation “On the quest for memories of slavery in French-speaking literature” addresses networks relevant to the transatlantic circulation of populations. My approach is both historical, sociological and psychological and includes literary texts and cinema. I argue that literary discourse on the slave trade and slavery entails, not only a quest to recover memories, but also as an attempt to rewrite History by and for the voiceless. Pierre Nora in Places of Memory is my main tool of inquiry. Maurice Halbwachs concept of “collective memory” will also allow me to disclose networks of relations between the literary works and how they interact with each other.

In chapter one I argue about how pivotal it is to start identifying, preserving and transmitting the sites of remembrance of enslavement from one generation to the next to avoid the repetition of this unfortunate history. Chapter two traces a literary tradition of captive accounts in North American slave narratives. It explores reasons for the lack of historical slave narratives in former French colonies, while entering in conversations with different literary critics who have elaborated some hypothesis on that issue. Chapter three focuses on the raids and different sequences of serious attempts to erase the memory of the enslaved as depicted in Étienne Goyémidé, Léonora Miano (Le Dernier survivant de la caravane, La Saison de l’ombre). Chapter fourth takes us into the various steps of the journey to the New World in Kangni Alem's novel Slaves . The fifth chapter takes into novels by French Caribbean authors, and brings to light mainly literary representations of slave memories as portrayed in novels such as La Case du commandeur by Édouard Glissant, L'Esclave vieilhomme et le molosse by Patrick Chamoiseau, Rosalie l' infamous by Evelyne Trouillot. These artistic productions offer a space to analyze the resilience of human beings, and to ascertain if any recollection of the motherland did survive the trauma of deportation in the African Diasporas.



Committee Chair

Ngandu, Pius



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