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Title:The European Presence in Africa: A Historical and Literary Study (Britain, France)
Author(s):Ndiaye, Abdou Latif
Department / Program:Comparative and World Literature
Discipline:Comparative and World Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
History, African
Abstract:Literature devoted to the European experience in Africa has contributed both to justify colonialism and to undermine its tenets and presuppositions.
Explorers and missionaries set the tone by their literary attempts to rationalize the alleged responsibility of Europe to rule Africa. In their pursuit of a "scientific" basis for colonization, explorers generally highlighted Africa's abundant natural wealth while disparaging the cultural values and achievements of her inhabitants. Missionaries similary emphasized the alleged savagery and spiritual inferiorty of Africans and usually described them in the worst possible light, as hapless and wretched creatures in need of a "comforting" Christian light. Basing their convictions on conclusions drawn by missionaries and explorers, French and British writers justified their imperialistic goal by (1) economics, because Africa could be a new market and a milking cow for France and England; (2) politics, because expansion would insure for imperial powers an increased respect in the world; and (3) humanitarianism, because missionaries and explorers had presumably "proved" that Africans were less than human. The British advocated indirect rule which, in theory, called for a direct and close collaboration between their representatives and the African leaders. The French upheld a system of direct and centralized government in which they alone constituted the voice of authority. A close analysis of these two systems, however, reveals that their similarities outweigh the differences. That is one of the reasons why novelists from Africa, Britain, and France drew from the same raw material and produced similar depictions of the European presence in Africa.
European characters in representative novels selected from British, French, "Anglophone," and "Francophone" authors experience three major levels of awareness: categoric differentiation from Africa, uneasy reconciliation with it, and a partial liberation from the tentacles of European tradition. In Andre Demaison's L'Etoile de Dakar, Winnifred Holthy's Mandoa! Mandoa, and T. Obinkaram Echewa's Land's Lord the European characters use their African experience as a badge of European supremacy and represent mere embodiments of imperial ideology. In Louis Faivre's Toum, Ousmane Sembene's O Pays! Mon beau peuple, Kole Omotoso's The Edifice and Ian Brook's Jimmy Riddle, the protagonists attempt to maintain a fragile balance between Africa and Europe and usually fail because of their inability to shed the influence of colonization. Marlow and Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Morel in Romain Gary's Les Racines du ciel and Clarence in Camara Laye's Le Regard du roi shake loose their attachment to Europe and venture into an inexorable quest for new values uncontaminated by imperialism.
Issue Date:1984
Description:268 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1984.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8502254
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1984

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