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Reviewed by:
  • Littératures, savoirs, et enseignement
  • Michael O'Riley
Littératures, savoirs, et enseignement ED. Musanji Ngalasso-MwathaBordeaux: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2007. 393 pp. ISBN 978-2-86781-459-4.

This book presents a collection of essays assembled following a September 2004 conference held at the Bordeaux Center for Linguistics and the Study of Franco-phone and African Literatures. The theme of the conference was Literature, Knowledge, and Teaching, and the collection is titled according to the conference topic. The interdisciplinary conference, according to the volume's editor, focused on questions such as whether literature is knowledge or power; how literature transmits knowledge and power; who has authority over literature and the knowledge it transmits; what image of the author does the literary critic transmit; and, what are the ideological and discursive foundations of modern literature. All of these topics are addressed in the thirty-four conference papers written in French and assembled in the volume. Perhaps the most promising of these topics mentioned in the volume's preface is the question of the role of literature, in this case African, in the university and secondary school systems.

The proceedings are organized around three principal areas related to the conference topic: the aesthetics and poetics of literature, representing a relatively disproportionate amount of space in the volume with only six chapters; literatures and knowledge, containing twelve chapters; and, literatures and teaching, containing sixteen chapters. The topic of literature that unites the three sections of the volume encompasses oral and discursive texts written in local African languages as well as in European languages. The topic of knowledge, according to the editor of the volume, is intended to encompass the types of knowledge transmitted by literature as well as the types of knowledge acquired from literature by the act of textual analysis. The topic of teaching refers to the institution of knowledge transmission and its modes of legitimization.

The first section of the volume treats topics such as poetry and politics of the 1970s and '80s in Senegal and Mauritius; Frantz Fanon as an icon of decolonization; and Fatou Diome's increasingly popular novel, Le ventre de l'Atlantique. The central concern of this section is the way that all literatures are founded on an aesthetics of a constant movement between the construction and deconstruction of language and its transmission of knowledge, both local and universal. This first section thus treats the way that the transformation of oral to discursive forms functions in relationship to the transmission of African heritage.

The second section focuses on the relationship between literary works and works from the Social Sciences. This part of the book contains essays on the novels of Daniel Biyaoula and the works of Amadou Hampaté Ba, as well as studies on the figure of the griot. This section seeks to examine the often shared discursive practices of literary works and works from the Social Sciences.

The final section of the volume contains reflections on the role of the teaching of African literatures in school systems in France, Italy, the Congo, and elsewhere. This section attempts to examine how African texts and authors enter into the history of ideas and school manuals, and what their relationship is to established canons currently being taught. The organizing focus of this section is the way [End Page 240] discourses on identity and alterity are established and communicated within the school system, at times often engendering a discriminatory bias.

Littératures, savoir, et enseignement is one of few volumes in French treating African literatures across borders. This, along with its attempt to address the relationship of African literatures to the school system, particularly within formerly colonizing countries undoubtedly constitutes one of its great strengths. Although the lack of a rigorous theoretical framework, both in the introduction and throughout the volume, might seem to detract a bit from this collection, its scope will be of interest to the francophone reader.

Michael O'Riley
The Ohio State University


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