Transnational Approaches, Themes, and Identities in 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Novels

Brown, Marissa, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dramé, Kandioura, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

This dissertation seeks to articulate the relationship between identity construction and transnational movement in a corpus of novels published after 1990 written by French, Antillean and Sub-Saharan African authors. I examine thematic and stylistic inscriptions of the transnational in order to show what is at stake in using literature to depict the transnational as constructive or deconstructive transformations to identity. In addition to Françoise Lionnet's and Dominic Thomas's discussions on the transnational, I mobilize postmodern rhizomatic theory, postcolonial theory, and Édouard Glissant's writings to perform close readings of Fatou Diome's Le ventre de l'Atlantique, Gisèle Pineau's L'Exil selon Julia, J.M.G. Le Clézio's L'Africain, Alain Mabanckou's Bleu Blanc Rouge, and Daniel Biyaoula's L'Impasse. I argue that these works exhibit a transnational identity that problematizes exclusionary standards of belonging and de-problematizes the construction of an identity that is rooted in multiple cultural and literary traditions. Because the transnational in this corpus involves areas united by historical oppression, these novels make particularly powerful statements on literature's role in promoting an appreciation of cultural diversity. I show how the authors call for belonging to be understood in terms of cultural values and practices, not physical presence or racial similarity. My study proves important to an understanding of how literature shows us a path towards a form of productive cross-cultural interaction that allows for identity to be open to other cultures yet maintain meaningful cultural particularities.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
transnational identity, Francophone transnational, migration in France, cultural hybridization
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