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Below is a short summary of each chapter within my thesis, including some of the key research questions and areas of investigation.  Click on the links below to read more.


Chapter 1: A Culture of Change

My first chapter discussed the way in which Francophone Senegalese women’s literature has developed and transformed in the context of historical and societal revolution.  I analysed the concept of change, how tradition and modernity are often defined, asking where one stops and the other begins, and to what extent female writers have been influenced by their roots and traditional values.  To what degree have they used the act of writing as a tool for preserving their own culture or alternatively as an instrument for change and revolution, and how has this had an impact on their writing and ensuing translation in light of “the cultural turn” in translation studies?  I investigated whether tradition is defined by anything ‘home-grown,’ or if certain elements of society came from elsewhere, simply defined as traditional because they have been around for so long.  And with the impact of globalisation, I considered to what extent Francophone women writers have been influenced by their travels within and beyond Africa. 

Further, I explored the traditional culture of women’s silence and how writers have found voices in postcolonial literature, how the genre was previously neglected or marginalised, but now appears to be flourishing – what has changed and why?  To what extent have women writers compromised in order to be heard, and how is this reflected in their writing?  How has this created shifts between languages and in translation?  And what elements of cultural transfer are brought to light?  I approached texts from an anthropological and ethnological standpoint, enquiring how racial, ethnic and geographical issues may have influenced francophemme literature over time, comparing characteristics of Senegalese literature to standard French literature, and using these comparative conclusions to determine defining features of francophemme literature, and in that way feed into translation strategies. 

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Chapter 2: Power Relations

In chapter two, I explored the concept of Power Relations – the power of politics, religion, gender, colonialism and Western ideology.  I explored how Senegal is special in the way in which it blends politics with culture and poetics, and the powerful role of Senghor in spreading the language of literature both literally and figuratively.  The part Senghor played in the establishment of the Negritude movement was also of interest, and I investigated how Negritude could be applied to the modern female world of poetry and prose, analysing how this affects the translation of their works.  Moving beyond Senghor, I considered other major political influences upon the works of women writers, either in subject matter or linguistically.  Slavery and colonialism have been the stimuli for power struggles between Africa and the West, Senegal and the coloniser, and between Islamic, Christian and traditional beliefs.  What parallels can be drawn between the power struggles viewed in Senegalese literature and those faced by the translator – acculturation and assimilation, domestication or foreignisation? 

This second chapter also asked how gendered education may have influenced the way in which Senegalese women write.  In some cases, women have been deprived of a literary education due to traditional patriarchal values and traditions, whilst others have been highly influenced by the postcolonial education system, echoing French prose or poetry in their works, as well as using more gallicised literary forms and vocabulary.  I explored women’s language use and whether it differs from that of Senegalese men due to the different cultures they occupy and diverse functions they perform in society.  I considered feminist translation strategies used by writers such as Lotbinière-Harwood, and the relevance of such techniques to this body of works.  Further, I explored the extent to which a Western translator should be aware of the power of Western ideology in translation decision-making.  How can she distance herself from euro-perspectives and see literature through Senegalese eyes, gazing upon a translation as an African interpreter may do?  Where does postcolonial literature stop and Senegalese literature begin?  And to what extent does the power of the publisher influence the work of a translator?

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Chapter 3: Mediation and Linguistic Hybridity

The third chapter analysed the clash of identities triggered by the meeting of France and Senegal, how Francophone women writers’ hybrid identities have been expressed through language, and whether writing in the coloniser’s language, the language of the “Other” is an emotional decision or a conscious way of regaining power and control in both in the world of literature and beyond.  How has French been used in contrast to literature from France?  How has language been manipulated to fit in with Senegalese cultures, and how has it been amended due to different ways of language learning in Africa?  Are linguistic norms and conventions distinct from those in Europe, and if so, how does this impact the translator, especially if she is searching for some form of equivalence in the target text?  Can semiotics be used to read cultural signs within the literature, in order to reconstruct them in translation?  And is reading these cultural signs part of the translator’s function as a cultural go-between?

I explored the influence of local Senegalese languages and linguistic issues upon modern Senegalese literature and translation.  The most commonly spoken local language is Wolof, so I investigated the effect of Wolof upon Francophone women's literature, asking if the translator should have a good working knowledge of local languages when translating postcolonial literature.  Further, in recreating a hybrid text that draws upon different languages and cultures, how bold can the translator be in her decisions, and can a lack of understanding of the source text culture and languages heighten the visibility of the translator?  How should translations be approached differently when the text is non-standard.  And how much does translation affect the reception of this non-standard literature?  Does the complexity of translating these works mean it is harder to retain the cultural message of the source language text?  Can French ever truly represent a native African language?  And is this the same for the English language?

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Chapter 4: The Influence of Orature

In chapter four I investigated elements of orality present in many different types of Francophone women's works, whether stylistic, aural, structural, emotional or topical. In modern Senegal, music and orality are still very much present in everyday lives and cultures, and I analysed the way in which both traditional and modern orality may have influenced postcolonial literature.  In the past, orature has been a highly important part of Senegalese women’s lives: as the precursor of literature in Western Africa it was a form of storytelling, amusement, passing time, as well as passing on information and history from one generation to the next.  Because of this, I questioned the concept of the “original” source text, and how a more fluid sense of originality can change the way in which a translator approaches her work. 

By researching Senegalese orality, how and when it is used and who writes and performs it, I hoped to find parallels between the traditional form of storytelling in Africa, and the written form which has been brought to the continent from the West, my aim being to find the most useful translation strategies for this text type.  I analysed orature in terms of style, form and subject matter, my belief being that the translator could then recognise these characteristics in the postcolonial text and use this knowledge in the production of a translation.  Further, as women’s oral past is very different from that of their male counterparts, I explored women’s orature specifically: who uses orality, when it is employed, the forms it takes, different genres and their features.  Finally, theorists such as Katharina Reiss, Anna Trosborg and Christiane Nord draw upon the concepts of genre and text type in the translator decision-making process in order to define such things as source text intentions and features.  I hoped to use their findings to investigate Francophone women's literature as a genre, to study the link between Western poetry and orature, and to ascertain whether poetry translation theory is relevant to the translation of postcolonial African literature. 

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“in order to translate a language, or a text, without changing its meaning, one would have to transport its audience as well” (Hoffman 273)