Colonial Africa & Lit

Colonial Africa and Literature between the Wars

It was in the wake of the Great War that the French Ministry of Overseas intensified its propaganda about expansion activities in Africa. The International Colonial Exhibition, held in Paris in 1931, marked the apogee of French political and popular convictions that concern the civilisation aspect of colonialism. It was in the very same period that French Equatorial Africa and French West Africa (l’Afrique Equatoriale and l’Afrique Occidentale Française) opened to tourists. These regions had long been spaces reserved for military, colonial administrations and large commercial companies. From then on, Africa, before seen as wild and remote in the same way that the Orient did a century before, attracted writers-travellers on a quest for exoticism and unfamiliar experiences. Namely four important men of letters – André Gide, Paul Morand, Albert Londres and Michel Leiris – spent their days in French Africa during the ten-year period that began in 1925 and who then, upon their return, published the impressions of their travels. Those published works influenced the way the French saw the colonial empire in Africa. We will confront those accounts in the fictional narrative told by Bardamu in Journey to the End of the Night by Céline (1932) and in the novel Batouala (Prix Goncourt in 1921) written by the Martinican author René Maran, who was at that time a colonial administrator in French Equatorial Africa.
We will see that it was during that period, first marked by the absurdity of the human sacrifice during the First World War and later on by the economic and social hardships caused by the financial crisis, that literature tackled the question of African colonialism. This Africa which had involuntarily and without others’ interest in it, by the means of “l’art nègre”, participated to a great extent in literary and artistic renewal of surrealists’ imagination, started to be portrayed as it is in reality.

Required texts:
André GIDE, Voyage au Congo, ISBN 978-2-07-039310-7
Albert LONDRES, Terre d’ébène. ISBN 978-2-86959-812-6
Louis-Ferdinand CÉLINE, Voyage au bout de la nuit. ISBN 978-2-07-036028-4
René MARAN, Batouala, ISBN 978-2-210-75450-8
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FREN 6663

All Sections in Summer 2015 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

Summer 2015 Language Schools, LS 6 Week Session

FREN6663A-L15 Lecture (Lauthelier-Mourier)