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The unspoken self: Feminism and cultural identity in African women's writing in French

Hitchcott, Nicola Marie; (1994) The unspoken self: Feminism and cultural identity in African women's writing in French. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis presents an analysis of a range of texts by black women from francophone Africa. Proceeding from a structuralist base, it examines the way in which the cultural identity of the African woman is located in these texts, and seeks to identify the specific nature of her cultural experience. Since feminism is recognised as the strongest theoretical expression of the specificity of gender-based oppression in the West, the thesis discusses the representation of feminism in African women's discourse, both spoken (the interviews) and written (the novels themselves). What eventually emerges is a complex relationship between the African woman and feminism which, as the thesis demonstrates, is symptomatic of the structural duality of African femininity. The body of the thesis considers the way in which the African woman's identity is expressed at different levels in the novels. Duality emerges in a lexical analysis, as well as at the fictional levels of imagery and character presentation, and ultimately at the level of the discourse itself in the shape of a central axis of modernism/tradition which it attempts to reconcile. Interviews with African women offer another view of the fictional 'mise-en-scene' of this unvoiced identity, and provide both context and commentary for the novels themselves. A bibliography of African women's writing in French also forms part of the corpus in that it demonstrates a multiplicity of voices which are rarely, if ever heard. The conclusion suggests that, although unspoken and unheard, the voice of the African woman's cultural identity is implicitly expressed through content and through form, and that the repression of the self in discourse is symptomatic of the control of feminine identity by contemporary black African society. The identity which does emerge is characterised by its diversity, thereby resisting the reduction of femininity to a single patriarchal construct. Moreover, the emphasis on plurality makes a positive link with the diversity of voices in Western feminism, and suggests an optimistic and theoretically useful model for women writers, not just in Africa but throughout the world.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The unspoken self: Feminism and cultural identity in African women's writing in French
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; African women; Feminism; Franchophone Africa; French; Writing
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097335
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