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Utopian Memory in African and Caribbean Literatures (SSRCH Insight Grant)
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
My thesis examines the concept of the transcultural in the contemporary African novel, specifically in Le Cavalier et son ombre (1997) by Boubacar Boris Diop, Cinéma (1997) by Tiermo Monénembo, Le lys et le flamboyant (1997) by Henri Lopes and Rue Félix-Faure (2005) by Ken Bugul. I define the transcultural as the diverse novelistic operations of appropriation or re-appropriation, interpretation or reinterpretation, as well as the borrowing of cultural signs from many different places. The transcultural thus elucidates the way in which the contemporary African novel positions itself within a conceptual space of buzzing cultural activity. Yet critics often insist on the difference and identity of African fiction and consign it to a unique status that can only amount to exclusion and discrimination.I use critical concepts such as Marc Angenot’s acceptability, Jean-Marc Ela’s bricolage and indocility, Giorgio Agamben’s exception, and Greimas and Meschonnic’s sign to emphasize the transgressive value of the transcultural option adopted by the novels studied. Thus, the novel appears as the locus of multiple crossings: the crossing of micro-narratives that proclaim the end of master narratives; the crossing of genres and of art forms (orality, music, cinema, sculpture, photography); the crossing of discourses. The transcultural seizes the novel and perverts it, turning it into a disparate mixture, because the novel itself is by nature unstable and irresolute.I conclude that the contemporary African novel, while having its frames of reference, nevertheless escapes all attempts at fixing its identity and definition because it is a framework in which generic, cultural, geographic and spatial frontiers break down and cease to present any clear configuration. The contemporary African novel increasingly constitutes itself in the fluctuating interstices of space and of literary and artistic genres, all of which writers continue to appropriate and re-appropriate.
The relationship between first language (L1) literacy and second language (L2) learning has increasingly become an object of considerable study in the field of Second Language Acquisition. While numerous studies have been conducted on this issue in situations in which the first and second languages of literacy are related (Spanish and English: Cummins, 2000; Gonzalez, 1979; French and English Cziko, 1978), little research is currently available on how school children who are partially literate in their mother tongue learn an L2 successfully (Wagner, 1998).This research investigates the L2 French phonological awareness, decoding and comprehension skills of two groups of sixty L1 Wolof child learners of L2 French in Senegal. Prior to learning French, one group developed early literacy skills in Arabic (the Qur’anic group), and the other group developed no literacy skills in Wolof or Arabic (the Non-Qur’anic group).Combining both quantitative and qualitative methods, the data were collected through an odd-word-out instrument, a picture-word-identification and association instrument,a reading comprehension instrument, and a questionnaire, as well as through semi-structured interviews.This research showed that the absence of literacy skills in either the mother tongue (Wolof) or Arabic affects learning in L2 French. That is,the Qur’anic group out performed the Non-Qur’anic group in L2 French decoding skills and reading comprehension, except in the area of L2 phonological awareness where both groups performed at an equal level. The results also identified a strong correlation between early literacy skills developed at home or in Qur’anic schooland later success in decoding and reading a French text at school.
Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
The slave trade and colonial regimes disrupted the collectivity and history of the Caribbean populations. The absence of firsthand victim accounts in institutionalized historical records, e.g., chronicles of national history, and the current displacement of diasporic communities negate the effectiveness of ‘lieux de mémoire’, relegating collective memory to an abstraction of cultural remnants and personal narratives. However, several contemporary Caribbean works present a female protagonist with an embodied connection to history and culture, despite a lack of experiential knowledge and/or removal from the communal context. The corpus of this study includes Marie Célie-Agnant’s Le livre d’Emma (2001), Simone and André Schwarz-Bart’s Un plat de porc aux bananes vertes (1967), and Gisèle Pineau’s L’Exil selon Julia (1996). I approach this phenomenon by investigating the meanings associated with physical sensations that trigger reminiscence and their connections to collective memory. I link trans-generational memory to the acculturation of Caribbean women’s bodies as sites of history and position sensory memory as a form of ‘living’ memory that transcends geographical displacement and temporal distance. The continuity of sensory memory establishes embodied solidarity between ancestors and the ‘postmemory’ generation who are faced with cultural alienation.
Influenced by the principles once denounced by Aurélien Boivin and Cécile Dubé, Marie-Célie Agnant and Lise Tremblay tell the story of two women faced by silence and a general misunderstanding. It is by exposing the story of Élise and Emma, who have been stigmatized with madness, that Tremblay and Agnant expose a dark side of the power of discourse: it can liberate or reinforce a sense of alienation or oppression. We are led to rethink its problematical force through the alienated wanderings of a character on a quest to overcome somehow a disappointing love affair (Élise) and the account of the tribulations of a young woman accused of infanticide (Emma). Agnant and Tremblay also exploit the theme of space (whether it be historical, physical or symbolic) by carrying us into both the maze of History and that of Quebec City. Among other states and situations, their characters are undeniably made prisoners of a physical space that conditions their discourses: a hospital for Emma and an old fortified city for Élise. The walls that are holding back Emma and Élise are nothing but the visual aspect of a more profound and tragic ailment that will only be exposed once the madwomen of Tremblay and Agnant, paradoxically, reclaim its power.