Francophone African and Caribbean autobiographies : a comparative study
Sankara, Edgard Wendimpousdé
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This dissertation is a comparative study of Francophone autobiographical writing in Africa and in the Caribbean. Recent research on Autobiography has focused on the differences between the Western and African productions but little has been said about the practice of the genre in the Caribbean. Using the theoretical background of Philippe Lejeune and James Olney as a point of departure, I address the question of how, in their respective differences, Francophone African and Caribbean autobiographies bring new perspectives to the practice of the genre. The study is divided into six chapters focused on each individual work by three autobiographers from Francophone Africa, Hampaté Bâ, Kesso Barry and Valentin-Yves Mudimbé, and by three autobiographers from the the French Caribbean, Raphaël Confiant, Patrick Chamoiseau and Maryse Condé. My dissertation shows commonalities and differences in the way the two Francophone groups write autobiography. While the theory of “Créolité” is reflected in the self-narratives by Chamoiseau and Confiant, its unitarian vision is contested in Condé. My research reveals that, despite the recourse to oral tradition in an endeavor to write differently, African and Caribbean autobiographies offer many divergences in identity questioning, race and the art of writing autobiography. The variety of audiences, for whom the autobiographers write, is problematized in my study where I suggest a limitation of freedom of expression in these autobiographies in the “post-colonial” era, due to the control of publishing houses. I also show that notions such as “colonial,” “post-colonial” and “Feminism” are to be relativized when applied to autobiographies in Francophone Africa and the French Caribbean.