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Title: Telling the past : ancestral narratives in novels by Yvonne Vera, Maryse Condé and Calixthe Beyala
Author: Lipenga, Timwa
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 355X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis examines ancestral narratives in selected novels by Yvonne Vera, Maryse Condé, and Calixthe Beyala.  My working definition of narrative chiefly draws upon Gérard Genette’s three-pronged conception of narrative as a story, text, and the telling of that story, and extends to the influences that society has upon the stories.  I investigate ways the female ancestral figures in the six novels recount their narratives, and the extent to which such narratives constitute legacies for the present. The thesis is informed by studies in postcolonial theory, specifically the concept of recovering the past, and the way in which the act of re-writing has challenged colonial stereotypes.  My argument is that by presenting ancestral narratives that expose the ancestors’ vulnerabilities and flaws, the three writers challenge the concept of meta-narratives which may base their validity on recollections of a glorious past.  The implication, for the descendents, is that claiming the past’s heritage is also an act of introspection, interrogating the idea of a sacrosanct narrative, transmitted from the past to the present. The first part focuses on the novels of Zimbabwean Yvonne Vera.  My focus is on the way the two grandmothers in Vera’s Nehanda and Under the Tongue recount other people’s narratives at the expense of their own stories.  I analyse Nehanda, in which Vera fictionalises the story of the spirit medium by the same name, who, in the novel, narrates the past and future of her community.  I then move on from the idea of Nehanda as a communal grandmother figure to a different type of narrative, one in which a grandmother speaks to her traumatised grandchild, Zhizha, in Under the Tongue. The second part is on Maryse Condé’s Moi … Tituba, Sorcière …Noire de Salem and Victoire, Les Saveurs et Les Mots.  My focus is on the challenges that the two grandmothers face as they attempt to recount narratives in societies that already have preconceived notions about them. In the third section, I read Calixthe Beyala’s largely autobiographical La Petite Fille du Réverbère as the character’s re-evaluation of her grandmother’s memory, focusing on the way the grandmother’s narratives at times give her grand-daughter, Tapoussière, a sense of discomfort, even as the latter seeks to claim a connection with her grandmother.  Finally, I read Beyala’s Les Arbres en Parlent Encore, specifically the grand-mother’s self-doubt, especially after having struggled to carve her own narrative space, not only as a questioning of the past, but also as an act of self-introspection, against which the writer assesses her own narratives, fictional and autobiographical.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available