Functions of Literature
A New Reading of Six Francophone African Novels
Keywords:literature, social transformation, African novels, French expression, Marxism
Literature is an open concept and a creative art which expresses human history, experiences, imagination, observations, predictions and suggestions at a particular time in a given society. Either as fiction or non-fiction, literature can be rendered in both spoken and written words. It is often argued whether literature is for itself or the development of the society that produces it. This study, therefore, interrogates how the selected Francophone African novels, namely Sembène Ousmane’s Les bouts de bois de Dieu, Mariama Bâ’s Une si longue lettre, Ferdinand Oyono’s Le vieux nègre et la médaille, Aminata Sow Fall’s La grève des bàttu, Patrick Ilboudo’s Les vertiges du trône and Fatou Keïta’s Rebelle, depict the function of literature. The novelists are selected because of their inclination towards the social transformation paradigm. The purpose of this paper is to raise people’s awareness and mobilize them towards positive change. Based on close reading, the paper is built around Marxist theory which is interested in the class struggle as demonstrated in a literary text, with a view to deconstructing the existing capitalist tendencies in a given society. The findings reveal that the selected novels are focused on the poor conditions socio-politically, economically, culturally and psychologically that exist both during and after the colonial era. The paper concludes that literature helps readers to cope with the socio-cultural, political, economic, religious and other challenges of their immediate as well as remote environments through the process of self-discovery. As such, positive social change is possible through literature.
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