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Postcolonial Francophone Autobiographies

From Africa to the Antilles

Edgard Sankara

Publication Year: 2011

Bringing a comparative perspective to the study of autobiography, Edgard Sankara considers a cross-section of postcolonial francophone writing from Africa and the Caribbean in order to examine and compare for the first time their transnational reception. Sankara not only compares the ways in which a wide selection of autobiographies were received locally (as well as in France) but also juxtaposes reception by the colonized and the colonizer to show how different meanings were assigned to the works after publication.

Sankara’s geographical and cultural coverage of Africa and its diaspora is rich, with separate chapters devoted to the autobiographies of Hampâté Bâ, Valentin Mudimbé, Kesso Barry, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and Maryse Condé. The author combines close reading, reception study, and postcolonial theory to present an insightful survey of the literary connections among these autobiographers as well as a useful point of departure for further exploration of the genre itself, of the role of reception studies in postcolonial criticism, and of the stance that postcolonial francophone writers choose to take regarding their communities of origin.

Modern Language Initiative

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Writing this book has been an intellectual voyage, and I am especially grateful to colleagues and friends who accompanied me and who have read chapters and offered insightful comments: Zan Kocher at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette; Mary Donaldson-Evans, Philip Goldstein, Gary Ferguson, and...

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Note on Translation

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pp. ix-xii

For books available in French only, the translation is mine. I have left the translation in the body of the chapters and moved the original French quotations to the Notes section. For books with an existing English translation (Chamoiseau and Condé), I maintained...

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pp. 1-20

Postcolonial Francophone Autobiographies: From Africa to the Antilles reflects a broad spectrum of Francophone autobiographies, examining the works of such authors as Valentin Mudimbé from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Amadou Hampâté Bâ from...

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Chapter One: Hampâté Bâ: Equilibrium and Ambiguous Reception

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pp. 21-52

Unlike the many Francophone African autobiographers who practiced autobiography at a relatively early age, Amadou Hampâté Bâ came to first-person narrative at the last stage of his career as a writer. Bâ was well known as a “traditionalist” for his...

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Chapter Two: Valentin Mudimbé: Autobiography, Philosophy, and Exclusive Francophone Reception

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pp. 53-73

Valentin Mudimbé is well known in the American academy for his numerous works on Africa. The publication of his autobiography, Les Corps glorieux des mots et des êtres, on his fiftieth birthday attests to his continued interest in Africa as well...

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Chapter Three: Kesso Barry: Autobiography, Masculinity, Ambiguity, and Limited Reception

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pp. 74-94

The autobiography of Kesso Barry is atypical compared to those by other autobiographers considered in this study because her autobiography is her only publication and because she declares she wrote it for a special audience: her daughter...

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Chapter Four: Patrick Chamoiseau: The Theatrical Self and a Paradoxical Reception

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pp. 95-117

Patrick Chamoiseau was born in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique, in 1953. He studied law both in his country of birth and in France, and he served as a probation officer in Fort-de-France before working as a librarian with young prisoners...

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Chapter Five

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pp. 118-143

Raphaël Confiant is one of the authors, along with Jean Bernabé and Patrick Chamoiseau, of Eloge de la Créolité (1989), a manifesto for a new literature in the French Caribbean—a literature that, through its use of Creole, is rooted in the realities of the islands....

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Chapter Six: Maryse Condé: Autobiographical Space and Lukewarm Reception

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pp. 144-158

Maryse Condé is a prolific writer, known for her fictional works, but known also for being at odds with critics, one of whom has called her “the recalcitrant” daughter of Africa....

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Conclusion: Francophone African and Caribbean Autobiographies and Their Mixed Reception

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pp. 159-182

My book concentrates on autobiographies written by authors from two geographically different areas, Africa and its diaspora, with French as the common linguistic connection. This study shows that Francophone autobiographers’ adoption of a canonical genre...


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pp. 171-198

Works Cited

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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780813931760
E-ISBN-10: 0813931762
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813931715
Print-ISBN-10: 0813931711

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 785940941
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Postcolonial Francophone Autobiographies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • West Indian literature (French) -- History and criticism.
  • African literature (French) -- History and criticism.
  • Postcolonialism -- French-speaking countries.
  • Autobiography.
  • French literature -- French-speaking countries -- History and criticism.
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