SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

The significant literary geographies of African festivals: expanding the toolbox of the (world) literary scholar?


Date: 8 May 2019Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 8 May 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Faber Building, 23/24 Russell Square Room: FG01

Type of Event: Seminar

Speaker: Claire Ducorneau (University Paul-Valéry - Montpellier 3, RIRRA21)

Abstract: In an era where cultural festivals multiply, so-called African festivals have spread in Africa, but also outside of Africa, in major cities as well as in little-known villages, for example in provincial France. What are some of their implications and effects in the case of francophone African literature? These events privilege a continental representation of literature, which often reveals itself as problematic when confronted with the complex geographies of the texts and authors represented at these festivals. Using cross-disciplinary methodology, this critical inquiry reads different reallocations of this persistent African matrix through a typology and contemporary examples (Kossi Efoui’s writings, the “Étonnants Voyageurs” and “Plein sud” festivals). As an object of study, festivals bear witness to the necessity of expanding the toolbox of the (world) literary scholar by making use of documentary sources and adopting ethnographic approaches. It reveals a structural tension between an African map and various concrete territories, where local issues matter often more than this continental category, and can affect the form and content of literature itself.

Bio: Claire Ducournau is a tenured Associate Professor in Literature at Paul-Valéry – Montpellier 3 University, and a member of the RIRRA21 research center. Her work centers on francophone African writing, publishing and media. She is particularly interested in how sociological research methods and close textual analysis can be combined to explore African literature in both its aesthetic and material facets, and to reveal how authors engage with power relationships that change over time. This has led to research on topics such as publishing history, cultural festivals, literary prizes, and writing by Ahmadou Kourouma or Amadou Hampâté Bâ. She dedicated her doctoral thesis to mechanisms of production of the African literary canon – her first monograph, La Fabrique des classiques africains. Écrivains d’Afrique subsaharienne francophone (1960-2012), is a revised version published by CNRS editions in 2017. Her current research explores overlooked press archives distributed on the African continent, which challenge the canonical literary corpus mainly published in France. In line with this topic, she has been working on large-scale, collaborative projects with partners in France and abroad, especially in Senegal and in the United-Kingdom. One of these projects led to the digitisation of one of the earliest francophone African women’s magazines, Awa: la revue de la femme noire and an exhibition which launched in Dakar in November 2017.

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