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Contemporary Francophone African Writers and the Burden of Commitment

Odile Cazenave, Patricia Célérier

Publication Year: 2011

Fifty years after most francophone African countries gained independence, the concept of "engagement" is undergoing a change in both terminology and practice as contemporary francophone African writers expand their forms of commitment to include aesthetics, in addition to politics, and to broaden their context to that of world literature. Cazenave and Célérier offer both an overview of this transition and an analysis of the literature of these writers.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book project was born of several years of collaboration through a series of roundtables and participations in panel discussions we co-chaired at the African Literature Association (ALA) and the Congrès International des Etudes Francophones (CIEF). These include “Littératures de la postcolonialité” (Sousse, Tunisia, CIEF 2000), “Ecricre...

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Introduction: The Burden of Commitment

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pp. 1-14

The very existence of “Engagement,” which can loosely be translated from the original French as political involvement of the intellectual class, has come to seem passé. This is true not only in France, widely viewed as the home of the engagé intellectual, with Emile Zola’s “J’accuse” of January 3, 1898, the foundational document, but also in Europe and the United States. The belief in the transformative...

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1. Enduring Commitments

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pp. 15-50

There is no pat answer to the issue of literary commitment. The difficulty in understanding that notion today is that it is conceptualized differently depending on the location of writers and critics. In the francophone world, literary commitment is equated with Engagement, which, in turn, is quickly associated with Sartre, and has been the subject of long-standing debates. In the United States and the Anglo- Saxon world...

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2. The Practice of Memory

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pp. 51-96

Memory and the “duty of memory” are themes that have become prevalent in contemporary discussions of history and literature. Following World War II, with the articulation of the notions of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” through the United Nations Charter, the prosecution of responsible parties, and the emergence of testimonial narratives related to the Holocaust,...

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3. Lifting the Burden? Francophone African Writers Engaging in New Aesthetics

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pp. 97-138

In this chapter we evaluate how the need to be emancipated from the old notion of engagement has led African writers creatively, and how it may have been related to the change in the relationship between France and Africa from the late 1980s on.1 As pointed out by Raharimanana in the following quote, the younger generations have been confronted more crucially than before with the question of defining...

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4. The Fashioning of an Engaging Literature: The Publishing Industry, the Internet, and Criticism

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pp. 139-176

Despite its increased visibility, the production of African art continues to be burdened by adverse market forces and cultural stereotyping. This is especially true for African literatures and visual arts. Despite great creative output and the international recognition of some individual artists such as the Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow and the conceptual artist Yinka Shonibare,...

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Conclusion : The Possibilities of Artistic Commitment

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pp. 177-185

Today, the words of engagé intellectuals as diverse as Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie, Wole Soyinka, and Orhan Pamuk carry weight and resound across the world, relayed by the international media. Contemporary francophone African writers and intellectuals participate in these conversations through their fictional and expository work. Tanella Boni’s...


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pp. 187-204

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 205-237


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pp. 239-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780813931159
E-ISBN-10: 0813931150
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813930954
Print-ISBN-10: 0813930952

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011