Representations of Sub-Saharan African Women in Colonial and Post-Colonial Novels in French
Sanusi, Ramonu Abiodun
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Sanusi, Ramonu Abiodun
Critics have tended to examine the portrayals of women in African literature either by focusing mainly on works by men or by emphasizing only women's texts. My dissertation looks at both men and women authors, tracing the representations of women in African writings from the earliest literary endeavors of Francophone African writers to contemporary times. By considering at least two authors of each generation of men and women writers, the thesis examines the interplay of colonialism, religion, patriarchy and traditional practices and their contribution to the subordination of African women. My adoption of the term subalternity to read African texts draws on Gramsci's idea of revolt, the episodic march of the oppressed to achieve what he called permanent victory. My use of the word subaltern here relates to the African woman subordinated by colonial, religious, patriarchal, and traditional forces. Francophone colonial and post-colonial writings such as Senghor's Chants d'ombre, Diop's Coups de pi/on, Beti's Mission terminee and Le Pauvre Christ de Bomba, Kourouma's Les Soleils des independances and Ousmane's Les Bouts de bois de Dieu represent traditional depictions of women by male authors. Ba's Une si longue lettre and Un chant ecarlate, Rawiri's Fureurs et eris ) de femme, Keita's Rebe/le and Yaou's Le Prix de la revolte, in contrast, illustrate the roles of women as seen through th~ eyes of African female writers. My aim in considering literary works by both men and women is to offer a balanced account of the evolution of the portrayal of women in sub-Saharan African narrative. I make a judicious use of certain Western theories even though I work within the framework of Third World cultures. I am aware of the social and cultural differences that make it important to heed Nnaemeka's warnings that anybody working on African texts should listen to the heartbeat of lgboland and respect African values. Nevertheless, I am convinced that listening tb the heartbeat of the Wesl can help to redefine some of the African traditions that subalternize women.