Negritude and Literary Criticism: The History and Theory of "Negro-African" Literature in French

Negritude and Literary Criticism: The History and Theory of "Negro-African" Literature in French

Negritude and Literary Criticism: The History and Theory of "Negro-African" Literature in French

Negritude and Literary Criticism: The History and Theory of "Negro-African" Literature in French

Synopsis

"Negro-African" literature in French is one of a number of appellations most commonly used to describe a body of literary texts written in French by Africans and those of African descent from roughly 1920 onward. Discussing the numerous other terms that have been used to designate the same body of texts ("Colonial" literature, "Black" literature, "literature of Negritude"), Jack explores the complex relationship between how literatures are named and how they are evaluated. The first thorough study of the history and criticism of "Negro-African" literature in French, this work gives an account of the development of a critical discourse and its influence on primary texts.

Excerpt

The aim of this study is threefold. First, to follow the development of secondary discourses concerned with the body of literary works known (in one instance) as “Negro-African literature in French.” Secondary discourses include works of theory and criticism, literary histories, essays and articles, and, to a lesser extent, prefaces and introductions to anthologies. In tracing the emergence of a now substantial body of secondary works, emphasis is placed on the dominant phases discernible, and on the range of approaches exemplified.

Second, the book explores the relationship between the area defined by secondary discourses and the criteria of evaluation proposed by them. Frequently this relationship is an “incestuous” one (one that should be proscribed on grounds of too close relation) which gives rise to what is described as a major “critical tautology.” For example, where the “area” is defined as “Negro-African literature in French,” literary works falling within it are then explored, and in some cases evaluated (either implicitly or explicitly), in terms of the degree of “Negro-Africanness” which they display; “neo-Africanness” is required of significant “neo-African literature,” and so on. Whereas most “autonomous” literatures are marked by national, geographic, linguistic, and racial homogeneity, the literature explored by the secondary texts under scrutiny emanates from a less stable context and is governed by more problematic characteristics. It is this instability of the literature as an obviously autonomous body of texts which invites the “critical tautology” mentioned above. For it is a literature constantly in search of its own coherence, of its own identity. It is a litera-

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