SAFARA

REVUE INTERNATIONALE DE
LANGUES, LITTÉRATURES ET CULTURES

N°9 & 10 janvier 2011
ISSN 0851-4119
UFR de Lettres & S...
SAFARA
REVUE INTERNATIONALE DE
LANGUES, LITTÉRATURES ET CULTURES
UFR de Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Be...
SOMMAIRE
Reclaiming Agency: How to Walk out of the Dark in Alex
La Guma‘s A Walk in the Night and In the Fog of the Season...
Safara, UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université
Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal, n°9 & 10, janvier 2011

Recl...
6

O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

fulfill our ambitions or the feeling of being ostracized may le...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

7

According to Kohut (1977 18), the “nuclear self (core s...
8

O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

engaging and decoding the social text. Consequently, he feels m...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

9

shirts and pants, their gun harness shiny with
polish a...
10 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

dramatized when John Abrahams’ loss of touch with the crowd
lea...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

11

vacant lots and weed-grown patches where
houses had on...
12 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

from the masses. As has been mentioned, by distancing himself
f...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

13

The imperative need for communal bonding in the fight
...
14 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

predicament, asking why the Whites have bigger land, and more
m...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

15

Ironically the Blacks are presented as ungrateful reci...
16 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

Elias’ intransigent stand pitted against the major’s rhetoric o...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

17

whenever the narrative’s naturalistic tones foreground...
18 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

branding irons which leave scars for life (La
Guma 1972 81).
Th...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

19

The juxtaposition of scenes of merriment and mourning ...
20 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works

-La Guma, Alex. A Walk in the Night. Evanston: Northwestern
Pre...
Safara, UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université
Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal, n°9 & 10, janvier 2011

Men ...
22 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

As one makes a cursory survey of contemporary world
literat...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

23

Mariama Ba’s novel has been the subject of several int...
24 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

Though some critics have touched upon Joe’s psychology, the...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

25

hyponchondriarchal problems—prevail among middle-aged
...
26 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

escape by engaging in frantic activity or sexual adventures...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

27

“make sacrifices even when sacrifices may not be in ou...
28 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

in her surroundings is motivated by a quest of understandin...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

29

ego ideal was silenced. The omniscient narrator first ...
30 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

with the Imam coming to announce to her that Modou took a
s...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

31

abandonment of his first family, Ba’s text clearly sug...
32 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

field of tenderness. His egoistic eye looks over his
partne...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

33

sense of confusion and absence of predetermination of ...
34 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

fence by a country road might not even expect to catch his ...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

35

Morrison’s narrative links Joe’s midlife crisis to a m...
36 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

had explained earlier that Joe dreaded the confirmation tha...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

37

Thus Joe is portrayed as a man who blindly pursues ple...
38 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

the behaviors of Joe Trace and Modou Fall, but they also tr...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

39

Kamara, Gibreel. “The Feminist Struggle in the Senegal...
40 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz

Paquet-Deyris, Anne-Marie. “Toni Morrison's Jazz and the Ci...
Safara, UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université
Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal, n°9 & 10, janvier 2011

The ...
42

C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art

d'une part et sur les contraintes sociales et culturelles in...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

43

According to M. a M. Ngal (1977:336), in every work in...
44

C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art

in the pre-renaissance or medieval world (see also Peter Hai...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

45

As for Stephen G. Nichols (1977:88), the influence of
...
46

C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art

But if the change in attitude in favour of the adornment of
...
Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011

47

Some Hausa Oral Artists and their Struggle to Construc...
48

C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art

tradition, a call for destruction of the old system, a call ...
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SAFARA est une revue internationale de langues, littératures et culture publiée chaque année par la Section d'Anglais de l'UFR des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal.

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Revue Safara numéros 9 et 10 - 2011

  1. 1. SAFARA REVUE INTERNATIONALE DE LANGUES, LITTÉRATURES ET CULTURES N°9 & 10 janvier 2011 ISSN 0851-4119 UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, BP 234, Sénégal
  2. 2. SAFARA REVUE INTERNATIONALE DE LANGUES, LITTÉRATURES ET CULTURES UFR de Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Berger, BP 234 Saint Louis, Sénégal Tel +221 33 961 23 56 Fax +221 .. 961 1884 E-Mail : safara@ugb.sn Directeur de Publication : Omar SOUGOU Université Gaston Berger COMITÉ SCIENTIFIQUE Omofolabo Flora Chima Mwamba Mamadou Ernest Graham Simon Mamadou A-SOYINKA (Kansas, USA) ALEXANDER (Royaume-Uni) ANYADIKE (Nigeria) CABAKULU (Sénégal) CAMARA (Sénégal) EMENYONU (N. Carol., USA) FURNESS (Royaume-Uni) GIKANDI (Princeton, USA) KANDJI (Sénégal) Baydallaye Edris Maweja Mustapha Molara Fiona Ndiawar Harold Marième KANE (Sénégal) MAKWARD (Wisc., USA) MBAYA (Sénégal) MUHAMMAD (Nigeria) OGUNDIPE (Ghana) MCLAUGHLIN (Kans., USA) SARR (Sénégal) SCHUEB (Wisc., USA) SY (Sénégal) COMITE DE RÉDACTION Rédacteur en Chef Badara SALL, UGB Co-Rédacteur en Chef Obododimma OHA, Ibadan, Nigeria Secrétaire de Rédactions Babacar DIENG, UGB Mamadou Ba, UGB Assistante de rédaction Khadidiatou Diallo, UGB Administrateur et trésorier Abdoulaye BARRY Relations extérieures Baydallaye KANE Membres Oumar FALL, UGB Olusegun ADEKOYA, Nigeria Fallou NGOM, Washington Lawan SHUAIB, Nigeria © Université Gaston Berger de Saint Louis, 2011 ISSN 0851-4119
  3. 3. SOMMAIRE Reclaiming Agency: How to Walk out of the Dark in Alex La Guma‘s A Walk in the Night and In the Fog of the Season’s End ………………………………………….……………. Oumar Chérif DIOP 5 Men Trading Wives for Younger Women: Freudian Overtones in the Representation of Male Midlife Crisis In So Long A Letter and Jazz ……………………………………………… 21 Babacar DIENG The Construction of Self (-Identity) in Hausa Verbal Art ….. Chaibou Elhadji OUMAROU 41 Translation and Interpretation: Twin Sisters for Cross-cultural Communication …..… ……………………………………… 59 ELisabeth DE CAMPOS Peace Education: A critical Examination of the Nexus Between Fundamental Freedoms and Sustainable Development in the Continent. ……. ………… …………. Ousmane BA Engagement militant et création romanesque Chez Ousmane Sembene ……………………………………………………. Ibrahima NDIAYE 85 103 Rôle du manuel scolaire de français dans la promotion de la littérature burkinabè écrite ………………………………….. 115 Jean-Claude BATIONO Le modèle sénégalais du dialogue Islamo-chrétien dans la literature sénégalaise ……………………………….. Cheikhou DIOUF 141 Ernesto Che Guevara: Huida del poder y soledad del personaje en Los cuadernos de Praga de Abel Posse …….. Ndioro SOW 157
  4. 4. Safara, UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal, n°9 & 10, janvier 2011 Reclaiming Agency: How to Walk out of the Dark in Alex La Guma‘s A Walk in the Night and In the Fog of the Season’s End. Oumar Chérif DIOP* Dans sa création romanesque, l’écrivain Sud-Africain Alex La Guma révèle, d’une part, les différentes formes de violence utilisées par le système d’Apartheid Sud- Africain pour subjuguer les Noirs et autres personnes de couleur et, d’autre part, les stratégies de résistance déployées par ces derniers pour mettre un terme à leur oppression. Dans cette analyse de la lutte contre la violence raciste en Afrique du Sud dans l’œuvre de La Guma, nous nous fondons sur les travaux du psychologue Heinz Kohut pour mettre en exergue les limites objectives des réactions individuelles et impulsives contre l’odieux système discriminatoire dans A Walk in the Night et les relents salvateurs des actions concertées au sein d’une organisation politique dans In the Fog of the Season’s End. In documenting the mores and experiences of black and colored South-Africans in his literary works, Alex La Guma unveils the structuring principles of violence in the Apartheid system, their logic, their dynamics, and how the victims of violence strive to end the white supremacists’ tyrannical rule. In this paper, using Heinz Kohut’s study of the self, I will focus on Blacks’ and Coloreds’ resistance to Apartheid violence. According to Kohut (1971 120), the healthy self emerges from two processes of self-formation: first, the grandiose or assertive self that strives to be independent and original; second, the self that seeks approval and is eager to be loved. The ambitions of the grandiose self and values of the idealized self-object are paramount to the achievement of self-identity. Thus, the failure to * Oumar Chérif DIOP teaches Postcolonial African and African Diaspora Literatures at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, USA.
  5. 5. 6 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works fulfill our ambitions or the feeling of being ostracized may lead to a narcissistic rage. Such anger, according to Strozier (1985), translates into fanatism or exclusivism in the context of socio-historical crisis. In Alex La Guma’s novels, violent attacks on the Black and Colored grandiose selves and the absence of the idealized self leave the Black and Colored youth psychologically fragmented and socially disoriented. Thus, the violence that stems from the loss of dignity and unjust economic conditions ranges from individual impulsive outbursts to large-scale organized violence. While exploring the counter violence that Black and Colored people oppose to the Apartheid system, La Guma exposes the limitations of the impulsive emotional outbursts in A Walk in the Night (1967) and walks us through the painstaking process of the constitution of collective, redemptive resistance in In the Fog of the Season’s End (1972). In April 1960, at the time of the Sharpeville massacre, La Guma completed A Walk in the Night, a poignant portrayal of racist repression. Michael Adonis, the main protagonist, has just lost his job. To add to his anger and frustration, he encounters the sadistic constable Raalt and his assistant, who humiliate him. Drunk on cheap wine in a pub, Michael returns to his tenement, where his drinking with Old Doughty ends in tragedy: in an impulsive outburst, Michael vents his pent up rage on the old, decrepit Irishman and kills him. Willieboy, one of Michael Adonis’s acquaintances, who accidently discovers the corpse is mistaken for the murderer of Old Doughty and shot dead by Raalt. A walk in the Night dramatizes the recurrent vicious assaults on Black and Colored youth that lead to their psychological fragmentation and social disorientation. As such, the protagonists are “doom’d to walk in the night … and for the day confined to waste in fire” (La Guma 1967 26). This plight, which is the substratum of the deterministic undercurrent of the novel, is buttressed by the way the brutality of the Apartheid system and the disintegration of District Six profoundly and irremediably affect the life of the characters. As a case in point, Michael Adonis’s dream for self-fulfillment is constantly dashed. His irreversible destitution leads to his alienation, with its corollaries of deep frustration and humiliation.
  6. 6. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 7 According to Kohut (1977 18), the “nuclear self (core self)” or “bipolar self” consists of two poles of ambitions and ideals as well as a tension arc created by these poles. He uses the term ‘bipolar self’ in accounting for two opportunities that ht person has to build a healthy cohesive self. The first opportunity is through adequate mirroring by the early selfobject. This requires empathic mirroring of what he earlier referred to as the grandiose self. The second prospect for a healthy cohesive self is from appositive relationship to an idealized selfobject. Thus, the self’s failure to seize these opportunities and to fulfill its aspirations may translate into narcissistic rage and, in the context of socio-historical crisis, escalate into fanatism or exclusivism (Strozier 1985 9). Because of his disenfranchisement and shame1, Michael Adonis is overwhelmed by a feeling of rage, and can neither hear nor see what goes on around him. While nursing his anger, Michael Adonis is quasi deaf to “the buzz and hum of voices and the growl of the traffic,” (La Guma 1967 1) and is engulfed by the “pustule of rage and humiliation that is continuing to ripen deep down within him” (La Guma 1967 1). Michael’s introversion does not and cannot obliterate the devastating effect of the shame he is experiencing. But Michael’s feeling of worthlessness might have been alleviated if he had joined the chorus of lamenting voices of misery. Such a connection with his people might have helped him unveil the root cause of his plight. Failing to do so, all he can hear is the buzz, hum, growl, and mutter that epitomize a high level of unintelligibility that derives from the lack of a meaningful interaction with the outside world. Jeffrey Alexander (2004 2) posits that to gain reflexivity and to move from the sense of something commonly experienced to the sense of strangeness that allows us to think sociologically, we need to be rooted in the social life-world. Such rootedness, he argues, is the soil that nourishes intelligibility. Thus, Michael’s inability to relate to his world prevents him from According to Hohut (1966 441), shame arises when the ego is unable to provide a proper discharge for the exhibitionistic demands of the narcissistic ideal self. Thus shame is the result of the feeling of being a failure.
  7. 7. 8 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works engaging and decoding the social text. Consequently, he feels more and more ashamed and alienated. When he looks right through the workers and fails to see them, he is missing the opportunity to have a reflection of himself. His feeling of shame focuses his gaze on an image of himself constructed by the Apartheid system. Kathleen M. Balutansky (1990 17) considers A Walk in the Night replete with representations of the tensions black people experience when they have to face their self-images. La Guma, Balutansky (1990) argues, sets a literal as well as a figurative tension between the miserable reality created by Apartheid and the dignity and humanity that might have existed without the oppression and racism of the system (17). In contrast is Joe’s selflessness and love for nature as well as in the compassionate relationship between Michael Adonis and him which is illustrated in the following exchange: “You eat already?” “Well…no…not yet,” Joe said, smiling humbly and shyly, moving his broken shoes gently on the rough cracked paving. “Okay, here’s a bob. Get yourself something. Parcel of fish and some chips.” “Thanks, Mikey.” “Okay. So long, Joe” (La Guma 1967 9). These feelings of compassion and generosity spring from the selflessness that never fails to perceive the other’s needs. The natural and spontaneous tone of this exchange highlights some of the human values the Apartheid system diametrically opposes. As a case in point, the following encounter between Michael Adonis and the police contrasts strikingly with the above scene. […] Then he went up the street, trailing his tattered raincoat behind him like a sword-slashed, bullet-ripped banner just rescued from a battle. Michael Adonis turned towards the pub and saw the two policemen coming towards him. They came down the pavement in their flat caps, khaki
  8. 8. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 9 shirts and pants, their gun harness shiny with polish and the holstered pistols heavy at their waists. They had hard, frozen faces as if carved out of pink ice, and hard dispassionate eyes, hard and bright as pieces of blue glass (La Guma 1967 10-11). Michael’s gay and carefree appearance suddenly changes into that of a banner rescued from a battlefield when he meets the policemen, those agents of the Apartheid system whose sword has indeed slashed the Blacks’ true identity and whose bullet has constantly been aimed at their humanity. There is no doubt that Michael is in a war-zone and has to deal with deadly ambushes every so often. The coldness of this encounter and its chilling effect on Michael underscores the tension the Blacks permanently live with: to remain your true self in a viciously adverse situation. The juxtaposition of the two scenes reveals the schizophrenic paranoia that haunts the Apartheid victim. This technique gestures towards the two conflicting images that inhabit the Blacks’ and Coloreds’ psyches. One image embraces the beauty of a life, and the other must be frequently ready to confront the demons of Apartheid as the following passage demonstrates: Where are you walking around, man? The voice was hard and flat as a snap of a steel spring, and the one who spoke had hard, thin chapped lips and a faint blond down above them (La Guma 1967 11). This dehumanized voice and the tone of its address are in sharp contrast with the encounter between Joe and Michael. The inhumanity that prevails in this interaction is captured by the voice as a metonymy of interracial relations under Apartheid. Whether it mutters or shouts obscenities, the voice expresses the ongoing tension between Blacks and the white system. During this encounter, the reason why Michael Adonis dare not look at the constable in the eyes is not just out of fear of repression but also out of shame. There, in the eyes of the constable, Michael can see a reflection of his own distorted image, the Apartheid-concocted image of the Black. The afore-mentioned tension is again
  9. 9. 10 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works dramatized when John Abrahams’ loss of touch with the crowd leaves him at the mercy of Raalt. John Abrahams was now beginning to feel the effect of the abrasive stares of those around him and his bravado commenced to collapse, falling from him like dislodged colored paper decorations. He shuffled and stared at his feet and fingered his nether lip, trying to salvage some of the disintegrating sense of importance. ‘Listen, man, ’Raalt told him. ‘If you don’t want to talk now you can still be forced to appear in court and say what you know before the magistrate (La Guma 1967 63). John is caught between two adversarial worlds: the people of District Six and the police. The deep-seated fear that makes him yield to the pressure of Raalt alienates him from the crowd. By urging John not to break the collective silence of defiance, the crowd is inviting him to join in the protection of the stronghold that shields Blacks in a context where they are permanently targeted by the system. Unfortunately John’s attitude as an expression of self and communal disintegration undermines resistance to the system by legitimizing its acts of random violence and thus giving Raalt license to roam District Six and go after any “young rooker … with a yellow shirt” (La Guma 1967 60). Even more debilitating is the structural violence that denies Blacks and Coloreds basic amenities and plunges Michael, as well as Willieboy, into a world of destitution and crime. Their hopes and dreams are shattered by a socio-economic determinism that casts them into the realm of violence and criminality. Everything in the Blacks’ and Coloreds’ whereabouts is in decay: […] stretches of damp, battered houses […] […] cracked walls and high tenements that rose like left-overs of a bombed area in the twilight;
  10. 10. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 11 vacant lots and weed-grown patches where houses had once stood; and deep doorways resembling the entrances of deserted castles[…] row of dustbins lined on side of the entrance and exhaled the smell of rotten fruit, stale food, stagnant water and general decay (La Guma 1967 21). This disintegrating physical world epitomizes Michael’s fragmentary inner world which harbors feelings of anger and selfpity. His frustration and resentment, under the effect of the alcohol he has been drinking, “curdled into a sour knot of violence inside him” (La Guma 1967 26). This pent up violence is a result of the laceration of his bipolar self, to use Kohut’s (1977) concept, for Michael’s aspirations are dashed against walls of racism and humiliation. Clearly then, the networks of relations formed by the effects of the decaying world on Michael and his desperate needs for survival and recognition have dangerously compromised the chance for his healthy self to prevail. When in fury Michael calls Old Doughty “a blerry ghost” and later on shouts “You old bastard,” […] can’t a boy have a bloody piss without getting kicked in the backside by a lot of effing law?” One can sense how the black youth is haunted by the specter of his white tormentor who has wrecked his world and fragmented his self. In a flash, Old Doughty appears as the agent that shatters his self. Whether a death threat to Michael’s self or just an apparition of self-fragmenter, the old man becomes for the black youth the epitome of mortal danger. Michael’s impulsive act dictated by his fear is followed by a feeling of deep remorse: ‘Jesus’ he said and turned quickly and vomited down the wall behind him […] “God I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean to kill the blerry old man.” […] “Well he didn’t have no right living here with us colored” (La Guma 1967 29). In reaction to the shattered self, Ragland-Sullivan (1986) argues, “the avatar of aggressiveness arises and shows itself in projected blame. The goal of aggressiveness is to protect the moi from perceiving the tenuous fragility of its own formation” (38). What has made Michael so insecure and vulnerable is his isolation
  11. 11. 12 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works from the masses. As has been mentioned, by distancing himself from the workers he could not hear distinctly the noises around him. In so doing, he bears the burden of his humiliation and frustration alone. His rage becomes corrosive and self-blinding. Even when Greene and the taxi-driver are trying to drive him out of his self-centered world, Michael dissociates himself from them. Michael’s state of confusion prevents him from connecting with the social group he belongs to. Even when Greene and the taxi-driver are trying to drive him out of his self-centered world, Michael dissociates himself from them: when Greene tells him that “ ‘some whites took a negro out in the street and hanged him up,’ ” he replies: well the negroes isn’t like us […] It’s the capitalis system, the taxi-driver said. […] Whites act like that because of the capitalis system. What the hell do you mean—capitalis system? Michael Adonis asked (La Guma 1967 16). Michael cannot hear any other voice than his own. That voice is overwhelmed by anger and leads him to a state of confusion that prevents him from connecting with the social group he belongs to. The narrator uses the image of a knot of rage that is formed inside Michael like the quickening of the embryo in the womb to describe his mood. Pregnant with futile rage, Michael can deliver only the futile random violence that claims the life of an innocent old man. Ironically, his blind violence causes and parallels Raalt’s killing of Michael’s alter ego, Willieboy. Furthermore, Michael’s decaying world is comparable to the world of predilection of the cockroach that “paused over the stickiness and a creaking of boards somewhere startled it, sending it scuttling off with tiny scraping sounds across the floor” (La Guma 1967 95). At this same moment, as if in echo to that lonesome creature of decay and filth, John Abrahams “thought dully, What’s help you, turning on your own people?” (La Guma 1967 95). To emphasize the need to be connected with one’s community, we might add, thinking of Michael Adonis, “What’s help you turning your back to your people?”
  12. 12. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 13 The imperative need for communal bonding in the fight against the Apartheid system brings forth the novel’s final message, which is wrapped in the metaphor of “…the relentless, consistent, pounding of the creaming waves against the granite citadel rock” (La Guma 1967 96). At the close of A Walk in the Night, it appears that the only form of violence that can erode the granite citadel of Apartheid is organized communal violence and not isolated random violence. For where Michael has been nursing “the foetus of hatred inside his belly” (La Guma 1967 21) which led to the deaths of Old Doughty and Willieboy, Grace Lorenzo, who remains constantly in tune with the masses, is feeling the knot of love and life within her. In contrast to the knot of rage which has consumed Michael and led to senseless violence, Grace’s knot of life symbolizes the imminent birth of hope. In the Fog of the Season’s End (1972) focuses on how to make the imminent birth of hope happen by foregrounding the undertakings of a secret underground movement fighting to end the Apartheid system. The plot describes the activities of Beukes, the “colored” operative, and is framed by the account of the torture of Elias Tekwane, the Black organizer. Beukes sacrifices a happy personal life to devote himself to the revolution. His political activities, which include distributing anti-Apartheid pamphlets and coordinating the efforts of the movement to withstand full-scale repression, are interspersed with memories of happier times spent with his wife and his young child. He has been separated from them since being forced underground. The narrative is also interlaced with the activities of Isaac, the young office clerk who escapes arrest and eventually re-emerges as Paul, the third recruit to be smuggled out of South Africa for guerrilla training. While growing up, Elias and his mother “lived on anaemic ears of corn, […], on sinewy chicken now and then, on remains of meals begged in town, and on the kindness of the village community” (La Guma 1972 79). Such a precarious situation made Elias angry. However, unlike Michael Adonis in A Walk in the Night, Elias was not consumed by rage and shame. Instead, his anger “grew inside him like a ripening seed and the tendrils of its burgeoning writhed along his bones, through his muscles, into his mind” (La Guma 1972 79), and he started mulling over his
  13. 13. 14 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works predicament, asking why the Whites have bigger land, and more money; why his people work for the Whites instead of trying to make a little corn grow among the stones of their own patches (Laguma 1972 79). On his journey from the countryside to town, his list of questions included the living conditions of Blacks in the shanties and the poor working conditions of workers. Through a number of experiences ranging from police harassment to workers’ strikes, Elias understood progressively that the disenfranchisement of Blacks and Coloreds is inherent to the Apartheid system. Such awareness led him to the conclusion that his people must acquire both the techniques and the means for fighting a war against the white supremacists (La Guma 1972 143). After weeks of surveillance, the police capture Elias Tekwane, torture, and beat him to death. By refusing to reveal any information, Tekwane protects the movement and allows Beukes to escape and help smuggle three freedom fighters into neighboring countries. To frame the narrative, the novel uses historical landmarks that typify the Blacks’ conditions in South Africa: the Sharpeville massacre of Blacks protesting against the pass, the ritual of obtaining pass cards, the Bantu Homelands Constitution Act, the Segregation Laws, the Pass Laws, the Bantu Education System, the Group Area Act. In The Fog of the Season’s End articulates the fragmentation of Blacks as a result of their victimization by the white supremacist system. It also re-presents and deconstructs the white supremacists’ attempts to rationalize and legitimize the inhumane treatment of Blacks: I do not understand the ingratitude of your people… Look what we, our Government, have done for you people. We have given you nice jobs, houses, education. Education, ja. Take education for instance. We have allowed your people to get education, your own special schools, but you are not satisfied. No you want more than you get (La Guma 1972 4).
  14. 14. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 15 Ironically the Blacks are presented as ungrateful recipients of services from white benefactors preoccupied by the Blacks’ wellbeing. The whites’ “mindfulness” has gone as far as opening special schools to meet the needs of the Blacks. The irony also gestures towards the fact that the relationship is primarily paternalistic and dismissive: you do not have what is required not to refuse our decision. Why would you be unsatisfied? The paternalism is rooted in the racism that excludes and disqualifies Blacks for a certain number of services. I have heard that some of your people even want to learn mathematics. What good is mathematics to you? You see, you people are not the same as we are. We can understand these things, mathematics. We know the things which are best for you. Yet you want to be like the Whites. It is impossible. […] We understand that you must have certain things, rights, so we have arranged or you to have things you need, under our supervision (La Guma 1972 5). The evident social dichotomy in the use of I (we) and you (people) shows the exclusion of the Blacks from the decisionmaking process even in matters concerning their social and intellectual well-being. The whites’ government has the power to decide where and how to educate Blacks and the location and type of housing that is suitable for them. The major statement here is an expression of what is at the core of the philosophy of Apartheid. That philosophy is the basis of all the above-mentioned forms of legalized acts of violence. Put against the backdrop of the Apartheid system, the Major’s statement is a proclamation of the white supremacists’ inhumanity and is countered by Elias’s response: You have shot my people when they protested against unjust treatment; you have torn people from their homes, imprisoned them, not for stealing or murder, but not having your permission to live. Our children live in rags and die of hunger. And you want me to co-operate with you? It is impossible. (La Guma 1972 5).
  15. 15. 16 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works Elias’ intransigent stand pitted against the major’s rhetoric of justification heralds the tensions that rock the Apartheid system. His statement functions as a credo of the anti-apartheid movement. It is a manifesto that not only unveils the truth behind the lame euphemisms of the major’s discourse but further points at the rhetorical flaws of a deceptive statement that fails to accurately account for reality. The realities that the major euphemistically refers to as education and housing are, as the prisoner points out, the apartheid system’s inhumane programs that marginalize the Blacks. Their names are Bantu Education System and Bantu Homelands Constitution Act. To the Major’s rhetoric of justification which is essentially a rhetoric of concealment and deception, Elias responds with a rhetoric of denunciation that unmasks and exposes the violent nature of Apartheid. As such, it is defiant, and while opposing all that operates for, or with the system, it legitimizes all operations whose ultimate goal is to restore the Blacks’ trampled dignity and humanity. As Balutansky (1990) has it, the irreconcilable impulses of the rhetorical as well as essential tensions that underlie the style and tone of both the prisoner’s and the Major’s remarks introduce the overwhelming tensions portrayed in this novel; ..., La Guma turns the two hackneyed statements into a ritualized performance that symbolizes the forces Apartheid pitches against each other (82-3) The technique of juxtaposition is thus utilized to re-present the contradictions between two communities that are entrapped in a deadly cycle of violence. Their ways of mapping the same reality are diametrically at odds. However, since language and ideology are intimately related to the socio-economic environment, the naturalistic instances of In the Fog of the Season’s End are not just descriptive; they are strategies that help gauge the veracity of discourse. In its attempt to misname the flaws of the Apartheid system, the white supremacists’ rhetoric of justification is occasionally debunked by the novel’s imbedded irony. Ironic pointers appear
  16. 16. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 17 whenever the narrative’s naturalistic tones foreground a level of authenticity that unequivocally dispels the fallacy of the racists’ discourse. Realism, then allows the narrator to introduce exhibits that give credibility and eloquence to the indictment of racism. Thus, realism in the novel, is not just the representation of potentiality and the effects of action; it functions rhetorically as part of the set of strategies used to reveal the duplicity of the Apartheid discourse of violence that, on one hand, does not say what it does and on the other hand tries to transform the victim into a culprit. Along with these double-edged mimetic and symptomatic techniques, the narrative uses other strategies to reflect the violent tensions that tear apart the South African society. A variety of signs constantly remind the protagonists of their marginalization. In the following passage, the use of the colon associate portrayals of characters and their plight as down-trodden second class citizens: “It was a little baggy under the arms and around the chest, but it would pass: no one noticed second-hand clothes on a member of a second-class people.” (La Guma 1972 163). Second-hand clothes are all these second class citizens can afford. They live on the junk of white masters, being junk in junkyard themselves. Their living conditions, a vivid expression of structural violence, are an integral part of the dehumanization process to which the Blacks are subject. The second-hand clothes are indicative of the social devaluation of the Blacks. In actual fact they are literally heaped up like valueless object in their dwellings. Furthermore, they are submitted to various forms of harassment. As a case in point: When African people turn sixteen they are born again or, even worse, they are accepted into the mysteries of the Devil’s mass, confirmed into blood rites of servitude as cruel as Caligula, as merciless as Nero. Its bonds are the entangled chains of infinite regulations, its rivets are driven in with rubber stamps, and scratchy pans in the offices of the Native Commissioners are like
  17. 17. 18 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works branding irons which leave scars for life (La Guma 1972 81). The ritual of pass distribution like any other rite of passage introduces the initiates to another symbolic realm with new social status and attributes. For the Blacks, the reception of the pass as an induction into a world charted with racist regulations means anonymity, hence depersonalization. Rebirth is literally recreation of non-persons commoditized as labor force to serve the interests of the white establishment. A violation of the regulations means that All permits are cancelled so that you cease to exist. You will be nothing, nobody, in fact you will be de-created. You will not be able to go anywhere on the face of the earth, no man will be able to give you work, nowhere will you be able to be recognized…you will be as nothing (La Guma 1972 82). By wielding their power to re-create and to de-create, the white supremacists delineate the social as well as the psychological bounds where being is conceivable for and by the Blacks. The acceptance of such conditions that set the perimeters of existence means total subjugation and annihilation. The terms of the Blacks’ dehumanization are epitomized by people being identified with allegorical names: the Washerwoman, the Bicycle Messenger, the Outlaw. This symbolic death is the prelude to their physical liquidation when they stand against the law of their re-creator. The shooting, singing, chanting, laughter went on. The sun was hot and the sky steely with thunder. […]The sound of the shot was almost lost under the chanting, the singing, the laughter. Silence dropped from the gaping mouths of those who saw and heard, gaping in sudden wonder… The bundles of dead lay under the sun, with the abandoned pop bottles, fluttering pass-books, umbrellas, newspapers, all the debris of life and death. Among the dead was the Washerwoman...Those who found the outlaw discovered that he took some time to die… ( La Guma 1972 104-5).
  18. 18. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 19 The juxtaposition of scenes of merriment and mourning as well as the metaphor of the thunder under the sun reaffirm the contradiction at the heart of the society. The last paragraph points at the co-presence of life and death: the life of the anonymous masses, cluttered in bundles of dead. The tragedy is a wakeup call for all these people who were unable to capture the foreshadowing signs that have been flashing through the structural racial tensions. This random and sudden violence is symptomatic of the breaking point years of oppression brought. In In the Fog of the Season’s End, fatality as the outcome of decades of Apartheid makes resistance and sacrifices inevitable as illustrated by Elias’s death and the daily risks associated with revolutionary clandestine operations. A Walk in the Night and In the Fog of the Season’s End dramatize how racist violence permeates, disrupts, and destroys the lives of Blacks and Coloreds in South Africa. Furthermore, the novels expose how the protagonists react to the violence they are victims of. Whereas in A Walk in the Night, anger has led to shame and senseless violence, in In the Fog of the Season’s End, it has burgeoned into political awareness and urgency to overthrow the Apartheid system. Bibliography -Alexander, Jeffrey C. et al. Cultural Trauma and collective Identity. Berkeley: U of California P, 2004. -Baluntansky, Kathleen . The Novels of Alex La Guma. Washington, D.C.: Three continents Press, 1990. Kohut, Heinz. ‘Forms and Transformations of Narcissism’. Journal of American Psychoanalysis Association (1966): 243-272 ------------. The Analysis of Self. New York: International Universities Press, 1977. ------------. The Restoration of the Self. New York: International Universities Press, 1977.
  19. 19. 20 O. C. Diop: Walking out of the Dark in La Guma’s works -La Guma, Alex. A Walk in the Night. Evanston: Northwestern Press, 1967. --------------. In the Fog of the Season’s End London: Heinemann, 1972. -Ragland-Sullivan, Ellie. Jacques Lacan and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1986. -Strozier, Charles B. Self Psychology and the Humanities: Reflections on a New Psychoanalytical Approach. New York: W. W. Norton, 1985.
  20. 20. Safara, UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal, n°9 & 10, janvier 2011 Men Trading Wives for Younger Women: Freudian Overtones in the Representation of Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz Babacar DIENG* Abstract This article discusses the representation of midlife crisis in the works of two transnational women writers from Senegal, Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter (1979), and the US, Toni Morrison’s Jazz (1992). It shows that both Ba and Morrison represent the instability and “irrationality” of middle-aged men through the characters of Modou Fall and Joe Trace who engage in extramarital affairs with girls who are barely their daughters’ age. It argues that both critical female narrators in the narratives of our focus satirically describe men going through their midlife crisis as driven by the dictates of their ids and not responding to the suggestions of their egos and superegos. Résumé Cette étude comparative se penche sur la représentation de la crise masculine de milieu de vie comme motif intertextuel dans Une si longue lettre (So Long a Letter) (1979) de la sénégalaise Mariama Ba et Jazz (1992) de l’américaine Toni Morrison. Elle démontre que les deux auteurs s’attèlent à peindre l’instabilité psychologique et l’irrationalité qui caractérisent les hommes à mi-vie à travers les personnages de Modou Fall et Joe Trace qui se lancent dans des aventures amoureuses avec des gamines qui pourraient être leurs filles. L’auteur de cet article s’efforce de prouver que dans les deux romans, les narratrices aux regards réprobateurs décrivent de manière satirique les victimes de la crise de milieu de vie comme étant assujettis aux dictats de leurs ids et sourds aux suggestions de leurs egos et superegos. * Ph.D, Enseignant-Chercheur, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis.
  21. 21. 22 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz As one makes a cursory survey of contemporary world literatures, one can assert that the times when Virginia Woolf deplored in “A Room of One’s Own” the marginalization and silencing of Shakespeare’s sister and the impoverishment of literature resulting from the doors’ being shut upon women are long gone. Today, women are no longer exclusively discovered through the reductive prism of male perspective in the literary field. They have acquired great presence on the literary scenes. One can, without exaggeration, say that they have indeed found “a room of their own” and gained voice in world literatures to represent their own selves and experiences and help their counterparts cope with the challenges and hurdles in their lives while at the same time addressing important issues in their countries and around the world. In the process, female writers even reverse the patriarchal gaze, sometimes not just to portray men, but to psychoanalyze them also so as to better understand some psychological behaviors directly affecting their relationships with their wives and the family. The family sphere constitutes a privileged site in these women’s representations, which lends credence to the gynocritics’ view that women’s writings center on the domestic sphere. Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter (1979) and Toni Morrison’s Jazz (1992) constitute relevant examples of this empowerment through the pen and preoccupation with the domestic sphere. Though their authors hail from different societies, cultures, and geographical locations, these two novels share many common concerns in their narrative discourses. Both Morrison and Ba are preoccupied with the lives of women in their respective societies, the fate of the family, and the general problems affecting their societies. More particularly, both writers interweave the motif of male midlife crisis in their textual tapestry. Indeed, in characterizing male characters, Ba and Morrison both emphasize the instability and turmoil middle-aged men experience and how they affect their companions and/or families. Their narratives even bear psychoanalytical overtones as they attempt to depict middle-aged men and explain the unconscious determinisms they are subjected to. Whereas these novels have been studied from various angles, there has not been to date a work scrutinizing the motif of midlife crisis in them or reading them from a psychoanalytical perspective.
  22. 22. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 23 Mariama Ba’s novel has been the subject of several interesting scholarly productions focusing on the ideological, discursive and formalist dimensions of the novel. Barbara Klaw, among many other critics, relevantly points out in “Mariama Ba’s Une Si Longue Lettre and Subverting a Mythology of Sex-Based Oppression,” that many works read the novel from a feminist perspective. Médoune Guéye echoes Klaw’s words when he says that Dorothy Blair, Christophe Miller, Susan Stringer, and many other critics emphasize feminism in Ba’s work (309). This aspect of the novel continued to draw attention in more recent studies of the narrative: Mbye Cham, Gibreel Kamara (2001), Medoune Gueye (1998), Rizwana Habib Latha (2001), and John Champagne have also brought contributions to the discussion of this issue. Most of the remaining critical works focus on the postcolonial dimension of the novel or the study of the narrative structure (McElaney Johnson 1999; Larrier 1991). Most critical works on Toni Morrison’s Jazz focus on its themes, aesthetics, postmodernism, and narrative voice. For example, Katy Ryan analyzes the problematic of self-destruction and suicide in Jazz. Stephen Knadler explores the representation of domestic violence in the narrative. Derek Alwes analyzes the concept of choice in Jazz, focusing on the character of Joe Trace. Joe Yeldho and Neeklakantan G. scrutinize the representation of the city in the narrative. Megan Sweeney discusses the concepts of commensurability, commodification, crime and justice in Jazz and Morrison’s latest fiction. The novel’s narrative voice and the techniques Morrison utilizes to create an original culturally rooted type of narrator with postmodern tendencies have however drawn more critical attention. Page (1995), Hardrack (1995), Lesoinne (1997), and Treherne (2003), among other critics, have discussed Morrison’s postmodern and African-American strategies of writing and the characteristics of the “unreliable” narrator who invites the reader to participate actively in the complex process of reading the talking book. Other works moving along the same line of thought explore the motif of music in the narrative. For instance, Alain Munton, in “Misreading Morrison, Mishearing Jazz: A Response to Toni Morrison's Jazz Critics,” discusses the presence of jazz music and the various interpretation around the motif in Morrison’s text.
  23. 23. 24 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz Though some critics have touched upon Joe’s psychology, they have not discussed it against the backdrop of midlife crisis or Freudian theory. Our work departs from previous trajectories of interpretation because it combines psychoanalysis and feminist criticism to illustrate through a close reading of the texts how both writers represent midlife crisis and delve, like psychiatrists or psychoanalysts, into the psyche of male characters to try to understand the working of this disorder. This article proposes a reading of these two texts as psychological novels instrumentalizing psychoanalysis in their representation of male midlife crisis. Building on antecedent criticism and combining narratology and psychoanalysis, it attempts to scrutinize how these transnational writers problematize midlife crisis in their works and take the reader into the male characters’ psyches so as to reveal the motivations behind their acts. In a first stage, I will present the concept of midlife life crisis as defined in popular culture and scientific research. Then, I will present some key Freudian concepts used in the interpretation of the narratives of our focus. Finally, I will show how Ba and Morrison represent midlife crisis in their psychological novels. I will also argue that through the derisive way they present the irrationality of Modou and Joe, both narratives posit men are victims of their pleasure principle and subjected to their ids. Their inability to transform object-cathexes suggests a silencing of their egos and superegos. Midlife crisis is a very much textualized motif in American and world popular culture and the subject of several studies that confirm or dispute its existence. Some scholars consider middle age as a relatively stable period in adult development and believe midlife crisis is merely a construct. However, a considerable number of scholarly works, literary and film representations concur that this period of adult development can be particularly difficult and challenging. For instance, Stanley and Farell who reviewed extensively the issue of midlife crisis from a scientific and literary perspective, explain in “Identity and Crisis in Middle Aged Men” that more and more studies show that several of the signs of personal disorganization—neurotic and psychotic disorder, alcoholism, marital dissatisfaction, psychosomatic and
  24. 24. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 25 hyponchondriarchal problems—prevail among middle-aged Americans. Although these findings are consistent and clear cut, they remain puzzling. On the one hand they are supported by some clinical and conceptual formulations and widespread cultural stereotypes supporting that these problems are related to midlife crisis. On the other hand, “more systematic attempts to confirm or disconfirm the existence and impact of such a crisis have proved no evidence in support of the construct.....” (134). Whether it is a construct or a reality, midlife crisis or what some term ‘midlife transition’ is generally presented as a period of turmoil and life changes associated with disorder that most adults experience at varying stages in their middle age as a result of several factors ranging from fear of aging to dissatisfaction with the goals achieved. “Midlife crisis,” for Wethington, “connotes personal turmoil and sudden changes in personal goals and lifestyle, brought about by the realization of aging, physical decline, or entrapment in unwelcome, restrictive roles” (86). Psychoanalysts and psychologists believe it is a universal and inevitable human developmental stage (Stanley and Farell 134). Most of them situate its advent around the age of forty. Freund and O. Ritter conjecture that “reviewing the literature on middle adulthood, Staudinger and Bluck conclude that middle adulthood is typically seen as starting at age 40 and extending to age 60, but with vague and fuzzy boundaries regarding beginning and end” (583). This period is generally considered as a quite painful and difficult interim phase characterized by substantial changes in personality or disorder resulting from the adult’s desire to give new directions to his life after measuring his achievements. Midlife is indeed viewed as a period of self-introspection, for it is the time when the adult reflects upon his past and measures his achievements based on the standards he had set at a younger age. It is a period of change because after having taken stock of his achievements, the adult reinterprets his future self and makes plans for the second half of his life (Hermans and Oles, 1405; Freund and O. Ritter, 584). These adjustments may result in drastic changes that may seem irrational to other people. Although men may respond differently to it depending on their ethnicity, class, and structure of personal defences, it is generally believed that they sometimes try to
  25. 25. 26 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz escape by engaging in frantic activity or sexual adventures. Marylin Mercer, in “Infidelity,” corroborates this view when she describes middle-aged people as being especially vulnerable to extramarital affairs. Middle-age is a time when many couples find themselves heading in opposite directions. According to Lombardi, the most common stereotypes associated to the crisis are the following ones: men purchasing expensive cars like Porsches, getting hair plugs and trading in their wives for younger girlfriends (4). In other words, middle-aged men who undergo midlife crisis seem try to regain a youth lost and engage in affairs with younger women. To better illuminate the presence of psychoanalytical texts in the narratives, it is necessary to clarify some Freudian concepts expostulated in The Pleasure Principle and The Id and the Ego. Freud is probably one of the theorists who dealt the most with the inner workings of man’s psyche and sexuality. In The Pleasure Principle, Sigmund Freud conjectures that feelings of pleasure and unpleasure act imperatively upon human beings. Though pleasure does not dominate over the course of mental processes, there is in our minds a strong tendency towards the pleasure principle. Fortunately, that “tendency is opposed by certain other forces or circumstances, so the final outcome cannot be always in harmony with the tendency towards pleasure” (5). Those forces are embodied by the ego and the superego, which control the id. For Freud, the id constitutes the “dark, inaccessible part of our personality;” It is “a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations” full of energy reaching it from the instincts. It has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to satisfy the instinctual needs “subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.” Even if the ego’s instincts of self-preservation replace the pleasure principle with the reality principle, the first still does not abandon the goal of ultimately obtaining pleasure, but rather demands and carries into effect the delaying of satisfaction and temporarily accepts unpleasure. In Freud’s view, the logical, rational, and orderly ego acts as a mediator between the often antagonistic demands of the id and the superego, opting for liberation and self-gratification sometimes and censorship and conformity on the other. The superego, let it be reminded, is the site reflecting societal beliefs, behaviors and pressures. It stores social norms and mores and suggests us to
  26. 26. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 27 “make sacrifices even when sacrifices may not be in our best interests. Freud argued that we often repress what the id encourages us to think and do—things the superego and ego correspondingly tell us not to think and do—thereby forcing these “unacceptable” wishes and desires into the unconscious. Sometimes, the ego is able to “bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id; that is, the ego ideal or superego “represses, but also expresses the most powerful impulses and most important libidinal vicissitudes. Injunctions, prohibitions and repressions produce guilt because conscience exercizes the moral censorhip” (Freud, The Ego and Id, 27). For example, in instances of successful negotiation of the Oedipus complex, the ego desexualizes the object-cathexis and the pleasure principle cedes its place to the reality principle. Freud also warms that “if the ego has not succeeded in properly mastering the Oedipus complex, the energy cathexis of the latter springing from the id, will come into operation once more in the reactionformation of the ego ideal” (Ego and Id, 20-29). For Sigmund Freud, the pleasure principle long persists as the method of working employed by sexual instincts, which are hard to “educate”. These instincts often succeed in overcoming the reality principle (6). Freud also conjectures that women are more able to negotiate the dictates of the id, because they can transform object-cathesises better than men. We shall see further how these concepts enter into consideration in Ba’s and Morrison’s narratives. The representation of midlife crisis in Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter forms part of the narrative’s feminist discourse and denunciation of the polygamy. Ba’s story takes the form of a long letter the narrator, an actor in the story, addresses to her best friend and confidante, Aissatou, who works as an interpreter at the Senegalese embassy in the US. The epistolary form, let it be noted, used to be a form privileged in psychological novels such as Pamela and Clarissa of Samuel Richardson, a psychological novel being “a type of novel in which the main interest lies in the mental and emotional aspects of the characters” (OED). Like Ba’s novel, such psychological novels did not emphasize the action undertaken by main characters but rather focused on motivation and character development. Ramatoulaye’s psychoanalysis of Modou Fall and men
  27. 27. 28 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz in her surroundings is motivated by a quest of understanding which begins after the “mirasse” ceremony and continues during the forty days’ period of mourning following Modou Fall’s death. Those days constitute a unique time of introspection for the narrator because she has to refrain from wearing makeup, fine clothes, and attending to her appearance in a way that is socially recognized as consistent with situations of happiness and joy. Besides, she has to stay home unless she has to go out for essential business. Thus, she has ample time to take stock during this mourning period. McElaney relevantly points out that “the ‘diary’ records a journey of self-understanding” and a means for Ramatoulaye to examine her experience (111), but I believe that Ramatoulaye does not simply attempt to understand herself, but also the others, particularly Modou Fall and the other male characters. This quest for understanding males is triggered by her desire to discover what motivated Modou Fall’s abandonment of his first family after the “mirasse” ceremony, a ceremony during which the deceased person’s wealth is shared between the members of the family. “The mirasse” had exposed to others what was carefully concealed” (9): it “had revealed that Modou Fall had been engulfed into a mire of expenses; he died penniless and had left a pile of acknowledgements of debts from “cloth and gold traders, homedelivery grocers and butchers, car purchase installments” (9). Modou also still owed money to Sicap for the purchase of the villa he had bought for his second wife and to the bank, for he had borrowed four millions to send his in-laws to Mecca. These revelations make Ramatoulaye wonder if Modou Fall was subject to a form of disorder, and they also trigger a series of questions in her mind. The text echoes these questions twice: “Was it madness, weakness, irresistible love? What inner confusion led Modou Fall to marry Binetou?” (11). Further, she asks herself: “Madness or weakness? Heartlessness or irresistible love? What inner torment led Modou Fall to marry Binetou?” (12). Ramatoulaye is thus like a psychoanalyst studying events in retrospect to know the motivations behind Modou’s irrational actions. In the ensuing analeptical narrative characterized by several digressions, the narrator seems to come to the conclusion that Modou Fall was uniquely guided by his pleasure principle and his
  28. 28. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 29 ego ideal was silenced. The omniscient narrator first goes through past events to recall Modou’s actions and motivations. She departs from the first narrative line to recount with a happiness tainted with nostalgia her falling in love at first sight with Modou, her wedding, Aissatou’s union with Mawdo Ba, the crisis in Aissatou’s life resulting from Mawdo’s taking a second wife instigated by his mother Nabou. These digressions enable the narrator to insert several texts psychoanalyzing men in her tale to deliver her feminist discourse and expose at the same time Modou’s crisis. For example, Aissatou’s letter to Mawdo Ba when he took a second wife under the pressure of his old mother constitutes in fact an embedded narrative showing men’s submission to the pleasure principle and the dictates of their id. The narrator shows that though Mawdo pretends that he married Nabou to prevent his old mother with a declining health from dying from grief. Truth of the natter is he is rather driven by his id, or the pleasure-seeking part of his psyche. Aissatou infers that Mawdo Ba falls victim of his instincts and silences his superego. The Freudian conceptualization becomes obvious in Aissatou’s embedded narrative, as she proclaims: “Mawdo, man is one: greatness and animal fused together. None of his acts is pure charity. None is pure bestiality” (32). The discourse about the prevalence of the id over the ego and superego in male psyche is supported by the narrative discourse when Mawdo justifies the visible outcome of his intimate relationship with his second that he pretends not to be in love with as an instinctual act. “You can’t resist the imperious laws that demand food and clothing for man” he says. “These same laws compel the “male” in other respects. I say male to emphasize the bestiality of instincts…You understand…A wife must understand, once for all, and must forgive; she must not worry herself about the ‘betrayals of the flesh’” (34). The discourse about man’s instinctual behavior and unfaithfulness is further supported by the depiction of Samba Diack as a downright unfaithful man who made his wife Jacqueline plunge into a profound state of depression. Aissatou’s story constitutes the first part of the narrative’s indictment of men’s unfaithfulness and their instinctual behaviors which are further shown in the narrator’s recounting her own predicament resulting from Modou Fall’s midlife crisis. She begins
  29. 29. 30 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz with the Imam coming to announce to her that Modou took a second wife. The narrator insists on the underhandedness of Modou’s actions, his ridiculous and irrational behavior. Indeed, she shows how Modou, a man in his late forties or early fifties, had secretly and beyond all suspicion wooed and married Binetou, a teenager and friend of her daughter barely seventeen. In describing Modou’s “legalized” affair with young Binetou, the narrator borrows a quite derisive and ironic tone drawing attention on the ridiculous and pathetic sides of his behavior. She reveals how Modou followed a strict diet to “break his stomach egg.” Further, the compassionate but derisive narrator draws the reader’s attention on Modou’s attempt to regain a lost youth: And Modou would dye his hair every month. His waistline painfully restrained by old-fashioned trousers, Binetou would never miss a chance of laughing wickedly at him. Modou would leave himself winded trying to imprison youth in its decline, which abandoned him on all sides (48). Still, in the same vein, she reports rumors about Modou’s going out with Binetou to night clubs where they would meet Daba and his boyfriend. The text is quite eloquent and does not need any comments: “It was a grotesque confrontation: on one side, an illassorted couple, on the other two well-matched people” (50). The narrator insists that Modou was the laughing stock of young people who named him “cradle-snatcher.” In describing, Modou’s behavior, the narrator also relates with pain how Modou had made new life plans that did not include his first family any more. This life change seems irrational to the narrator. The narrative emphasizes the irrationality of his behavior by juxtaposing it with his previous characterization as a rational and practical trade union leader. From the narrator’s perspective, Modou Fall thus seems to be driven, as Freud would say, by “only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of his “instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.” The object of his pursuit is Binetou and he sacrifices his first family at the altar of love. By wondering what inner confusion led Modou to marry Binetou and satirizing Modou’s pursuit of Binetou and critically presenting his
  30. 30. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 31 abandonment of his first family, Ba’s text clearly suggests that Modou has lost all form of common sense and reason and that he is subjected to his id. Modou’s ego and superego can therefore be said to be submerged by the forces of his id. The satirical presentation of his relationship with Binetou corroborates his lack of common sense and impermeability to social and moral norms. Modou Fall presents all the symptoms of the man going through his midlife crisis. As noted above, the middle-aged man suffering from midlife crisis often goes through a stage of introspection or evaluation during which he measures his achievements. This evaluation may result in drastic life changes. Like middle-aged men undergoing their crises, Modou has traded in his wife with a second one, a friend of her daughter. Going from the portrayal of his infuriated then sympathetic first wife narrating the events after his death, Modou Fall was undergoing a period of disorder and disorganization. Indeed, Modou had given a new direction to his life and projected a future that did not take into account his first family that he had rejected: “His abandonment of his first family (myself and the children) was the outcome of the choice of a new life. He rejected us. He mapped out his existence without taking our existence into account” (9). Although the narrator is very critical towards Modou’s behavior, her examination of male psyche and the conclusion that the male submits to the dictate of his id in midlife lead her to forgive her husband. Though Ramatoulaye is angry at the beginning of the narrative, she ends up transcending that pain after her psychoanalytical exercise. Indeed, Ba’s text seems to associate midlife crisis to men’s particular predisposition to fall victim or pursue their pleasure principle. Through Modou Fall’s characterization, Ba’s text problematizes unfaithfulness and polygamy as a practice related to gender and male sexuality. The narrator conjectures that whereas women become more faithful and loving over years of marriage, men are rather driven by their id or pleasure-seeking principles as they become older: Whereas a woman draws from the passing years the force of devotion, despite the ageing of her companion, a man, on the other hand restricts his
  31. 31. 32 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz field of tenderness. His egoistic eye looks over his partner’s shoulder. He compares what he had with what he no longer has, what he has with what he could have (41). This interpretation of Ba parallels Freud’s opinion that women are more able to transform object-cathexis than men. The second narrative of our focus, Jazz (1992), shares representations, discourses and approaches with Ba’s text as we’ll endeavor to show even though it is postmodern. Whereas Ba’s psychological novel, even though multi-voiced, discusses midlife in a quite linear way, Morrison’s postmodern creative work complicates the reader’s process of deciphering the “talking book” that avoids stable meanings and/or constructs and deconstructs them. Several critics have pointed out the unreliability of the narrator because they consider that she questions her own tale. For example, Anne-Marie Paquet-Deyris argues that “the narrative voice eventually admits to "invent[ing] stories" (220) about the characters” (229). I concur that Morrison’s text requires a hermeneutic approach insofar as the reader has to gather fragments of discourses emerging from the textual polyphony to construct meaning. However, the narrator does not so much point at the unreliability of her story, but rather at her inability to deliver a grand master-narrative telling us with accuracy the lives of the characters, especially when telling involves prediction. Her predictions fail to circumscribe the evolving lives of the characters that develop, change, and escape her grasp sometimes. Thus, it is not the story which is questioned but rather some of her predictions about the characters. Through the choice of this type of narrating instance, Morrison replicates the complexity of language and life and lets the reader hermeneutically unveil the meaning of the narrative. Morrison’s Jazz lends itself to multiple readings by virtue of the fact that many thematics are woven into the discourse. Among these, it is noteworthy to make mention of the symbolism of the title, Jazz, which is historically significant; for, Morrison’s story took place in 1926, at the peak of the Harlem Renaissance. That period was dubbed the Jazz age, an era of amazing creativity. The fact that musical jazz is characterized by improvisation, may explain the
  32. 32. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 33 sense of confusion and absence of predetermination of characters through the narrator’s discourse experienced by the reader. This purposeful sense of wantonness and dynamism perhaps gives meaning and credence to Editor Deborah McDowell’s cogent remark about the character as process and not essence. Morrison’s text parallels in several respect Mariama Ba’s one. Like Ba’s text, Morrison’s narrative can be considered as a psychological novel as it focalizes Joe’s motivations and development throughout the different events that lead to his midlife crisis. The talking book takes the reader into the meanders of Joe’s mind to describe his turbulent midlife transition. The narrative utilizes three main ways of exposing Joe’s psyche: the gossiping narrator’s story, the characters’ speeches, and the harsh nonnarrative comments. Using a stream of consciousness-like technique, the polyphonic narrative switches to different perspectives. Fragments disseminated throughout this polyphony of texts present a complex psychoanalytical portrait of Joe in his midlife crisis. Joe Trace’s crisis parallels that of Modou Fall in several respects. Like Modou, Joe is a middle-aged man who has been married to his spouse for over twenty years. Like his Senegalese counterpart, the fifty-year-old American character trades his wife with a young girl who could have been the daughter he lost. Dorcas is barely seventeen years old, a young girl buying candies when Joe first catches a glimpse of her. The narrative plays on the metaphor of the candy—Dorcas is assimilated to Joe’s candy—to ironize on Joe’s affair which is presented like a mental regression. Joe’s midlife crisis seems to originate from several factors ranging from the alienating effects of the city, a resurging Oedipus complex, marital dissatisfaction coupled with a quest for the sensations he had lost. After twenty years in the alienating city, Joe’s marital life had come to a dead-end: he had no kids with Violet, which did not bother him, but his life was becoming monotonous. Violet communicated more with the birds than with Joe who was annoyed, puzzled, and depressed by his wife’s silence (24). This distancing between Joe and Violet seems to be a result of the alienating effects of their new environment. Indeed, little of the busy and artificial city life “makes for love, but it does pump desire. The woman who churned a man’s blood as she leaned all alone on a
  33. 33. 34 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz fence by a country road might not even expect to catch his eye in the City” (Jazz 34). Several factors lead to Joe’s unfaithfulness, but the text clearly posits that he is over all driven by the pleasure principle, and his supergo’s injunctions are completely drowned in his quest for pleasure. As a matter of fact, Joe was unable to come to terms with losing the sensations he felt with Violet. He could remember the dates but had forgotten what it felt like. Whereas Modou Fall has the possibility to take a second wife because his culture and religion allow him to, Joe engages in an extramarital relationship. His affair with Dorcas is an attempt to relive the sensations he used to have in Vesper country, and Page supports this view when he states that Joe “attempts to relive his remembered joy (his “Victory”) in Vesper country” (56). Joe had rented Malvonne’s room some time before he met Dorcas and “chose” her. Joe, in fact, unlike Modou Fall is not so much driven by passion or love, but rather by a conscious will to reenact love. He “didn’t fall in love with Dorcas, but he rose in it” (135). In my view, he never so much loved Dorcas, but rather what he re-felt when he was fleshly involved with her. In reference to his feelings after satisfaction of his carnal instincts with Dorcas, Joe reminisces: “You would have thought I was twenty, back in Palestine satisfying my appetite for the first time under a walnut tree” (129). This revelation illustrates Joe’s substitution; Dorcas is an object-cathexis that filled the void left by Violet; thus a substitute Violet. Besides, After Dorcas’ death, he reveals that he is not stuck on Dorcas, but rather on what he felt about her. Joe still loved Violet, but did not remember what it felt like. The narrative reveals that love when Felice observes, in reference to Joe: “I really believe he likes his wife” (206). The narrator also recounts the display of public love when Joe and Violet reconcile at the end of the novel. Thus Joe is driven by his id and is trying to relive the fleeing sensations he had with Violet back in Virginia when they were both young. Alice Manfred suggests like Mariama Ba’s Ramatoulaye that men are concupiscent beings when she says that Joe may do it again. Morrison’s representation of midlife crisis is however complicated by the motif of the missing mother. Whereas, Ba’s text assigns midlife mostly to men’s pursuit of the pleasure principle,
  34. 34. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 35 Morrison’s narrative links Joe’s midlife crisis to a more complex psychological process. Indeed, Joe is no doubt seeking pleasure, but he also seems to be affected by a resurfacing Oedipus complex. Freud had explained that the mother constitutes an object-cathexis in the boy’s early developmental stage, and as he grows up, the mother’s figure is transformed into an alteration of the ego through moral censorship and identification. He warns that “if the ego has not succeeded in properly mastering the Oedipus complex, the energy cathexis of the latter springing from the id, will come into operation once more in the reaction-formation of the ego ideal” (The Ego and the Id, 29). The narrative suggests that Joe’s affair with Dorcas constitutes an attempt to come to term with his Oedipus complex. He did not have a chance to come to terms with his Oedipus complex because not only did his mother—Wild-- who was crazy not nurse him, but also she had abandoned him at a very young age. Joe only saw traces and signs of his mother in the woods where she lived like an animal. He longed for a sign that would confirm that he was Wild’s son and felt ashamed for being her son at the same time. In Jazz, Dorcas constitutes a reaction-formation of his superego. Joe recreates his mother or as Page says so eloquently, “reconstructs her in Dorcas” (56). Dorcas, in Page’s view is thus a reiteration of Joe’s never acknowledged mother, Wild and Joe’s doubling of Dorcas and Wild becomes explicit in Joe’s metaphor of tracking: “I tracked my mother in Virginia and it led me right to her, and I tracked her Dorcas from borough to borough” (130)” (Jazz 57). Several textual clues support the view that Joe’s midlife crisis and instability result from the effects of a resurging Oedipal complex, which makes his superego inoperative. Joe and Dorcas bond because they are both suffering from the loss of their mothers. Because he does not know his mother, Joe carried a void inside of him, an “inside nothing that traveled with him from then on, except for the fall of 1925 when he had somebody to tell it” (37). Like Joe, Dorcas had a “nothing” because she had lost her mother as well. Another association between Dorcas and Wild, which illustrates a conflict between the id and the superego, lies in the ambivalent feelings Joe has towards the lover and the mother. I
  35. 35. 36 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz had explained earlier that Joe dreaded the confirmation that he was Wild’s son and he felt pleasure and shame at seeing her. He has the same ambivalence towards Dorcas: On the one hand, the “young good God girl” was a blessing to his life. On the other hand, she “makes him wish he had never been born” because he felt shame. This association between the young girl and the missing mother is further signified through the murder of Dorcas. When he was younger, Joe used to track Wild like a hunter and was reminded that Wild was not an animal but somebody’s mother. In a state of mental confusion resulting from Dorcas’ abandonment, Joe tracks her like he used to track Wild and shoots her. Besides, Joe is depicted as a child in the narrative. Joe’s predilection for candy is quite illustrative of his regression or mental stage. Dorcas, for instance is “Joe’s personal sweet—like candy.” Like Ramatoulaye in Ba’s text, the gossiping female narrator presents Joe’s midlife crisis as a transgression of social and moral norms, a period of change, instability, and confusion. She presents Joe’s behavior as something ridiculous and shocking, which suggests that Joe’s superego is not operational. The gossiping female narrator insists on the difference of age, when the narrative enquires if Dorcas was the daughter who took the man or the daughter who had fled the womb. In addition, the narrator derides Joe’s immaturity or mental regression. She and Alice describe Joe as a kid. The narrator explains that even though he wears “button-up-thefront and round-toed shoes,” Joe is a “kid, a strapling, and candy could still make smile” (121). Joe’s mental regression and lack of maturity and common sense are further illustrated in these lines, when she says in reference to Dorcas: She was Joe’s personal sweet—like candy. It was the best thing, if you were young and had just got to the City. That and the clarinets and even they were licorice sticks. But Joe has been in the city for twenty years and is not young any more. I imagine him as one of those men who stop somewhere around sixteen inside…..he’s a kid (121).
  36. 36. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 37 Thus Joe is portrayed as a man who blindly pursues pleasure and behaves like a kid. Like Modou Fall he seems to have lost all common sense, which suggests that his superego and ego fail to contain the instincts surging from his id. Looking back on his life, Joe, himself acknowledges that his involvement with Dorcas was ridiculous. He even suggests that he was experiencing a period of confusion and lack of discernment when he compares himself to a snake that had gone blind before shedding skin for the last time (Jazz 129). Thus, Both Ba and Morrison represent male midlife crisis in their narratives through the characterization of Modou Fall and Joe Trace. In So Long a Letter, Ramatoulaye’s husband, Modou Fall, trades her first wife for a beautiful young girl who has not even graduated from high school. To add to Ramatoulaye’s pain, this girl is the very friend of her daughter who used to study in her house. In addition to that, Modou Fall completely deserts her first family because her young wife would get angry as soon as he talked about the first family. Modou Fall does even respect the usual shifts between the two families. He no longer comes home and leaves his first wife alone to face the heavy burden of bringing up her numerous children and satisfying the financial and emotional needs of her large family. Modou Fall’s behavior is symptomatic of the middle-aged man going through midlife crisis. His behavior becomes irrational, and he seems to have mentally regressed and gone back to a stage of youth. The irrational behaviour of Morrison’s middle-aged Joe in Jazz parallels that of Modou Fall in several respects. Like Modou Fall, Joe is a middle-aged man in his fifties who had been married to her youth sweetheart for over twenty five years. He also trades his wife for a girl who could have been his own daughter. Indeed, the young girl he secretly meets at Malvonne’s place and goes on trips with, Dorcas, is a young girl barely seventeen. Like Binetou, she has not even graduated from high school. Both men seem to be subjected to the dictates of their ids and experience a period of instability and confusion. They are portrayed as lacking common sense. Jazz and So Long a Letter can also be termed psychological novels because their critical and ideologically-oriented female narrators do not simply show and tell
  37. 37. 38 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz the behaviors of Joe Trace and Modou Fall, but they also try to depict the motivations and forces behind their “irrational” actions. They posit that men are mainly driven by the pleasure principles and the id. Joe Trace’s midlife crisis seems to be more complex because a resurging oedipal complex complicates his crisis. Both narratives bear Freudian overtones in their characterization of the main male characters. Bibliography Alwes, Derek. “The Burden of Liberty: Choice in Toni Morrison's Jazz and Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters.” African American Review 30.3 (Autumn, 1996): 353-365. Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Trans. Modupe Bode-Thomas. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1989. Champagne, John. “A Feminist Just Like Us? Teaching Mariama Ba’s So Long aLetter.” College English 58.1 (Jan., 1996): 22-42. Freud, Sigmund. The Ego and the Id. Trans. Joan Riviere. Revised by James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Pyscho-Analysis, 1962. Freund, Alexandra M., and Johannes O. Ritter. “Midlife Crisis: A Debate.” Gerontology 55 (2009): 582-591. Guèye, Médoune. “La Question du Feminisme chez Mariama Ba et Aminata Sow Fall.” The French Review 72. 2 (Dec., 1998): 308-319. Hardack, Richard. "A Music Seeking Its Words" Double-Timing and Double-Consciousness in Toni Morrison's "Jazz." Callaloo 18. 2 (Spring, 1995): 451-471. Hermans, J M, and Piotr K Oles. “Midlife Crisis in Men: Affective Organization of Personal Feelings.” Human Relations 52.11 (1999): 1403-1426.
  38. 38. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 39 Kamara, Gibreel. “The Feminist Struggle in the Senegalese Novel: Mariama Ba and Sembene Ousmane.” Journal of Black Studies 32.2 (Nov. 2001): 212-228. Klaw, Barbara. “Mariama Ba's Une si longue lettre and Subverting a Mythology of Sex-Based Oppression.” Research in African Literatures 31. 2 (Summer 2000): 132-15. Lesoinne, Veronique. “Answer Jazz's Call: Experiencing Toni Morrison's Jazz.” MELUS 22.3 Varieties of Ethnic Criticism (Autumn, 1997): 151-166. Larrier, Renée. Correspondance et création littéraire : Mariama Bâ's Une si longue lettre. The French Review 64. 5 (1991): 747-753. Latha, Rzwana Habib. “Feminisms in an African Context: Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter.” Agenda 50, African Feminisms One (2001): 23-40. Lombardi, Kate Stone. New York Times; 04/13/2008, p.4, 0p. McElaney-Johnson, Ann. “Epistolary Friendship: “La Prise de Parole” in Mariama Ba’s ‘Une Si Longue Lettre.’” Research In African Literatures 30. 2 (Summer, 1999): 110-121. Mercer, Marilyn. « Infidelity ». New Choices for the Best Years. 29.6 (June 1989): 58-62. Munton, Alan. “Misreading Morrison, Mishearing Jazz: A Response to Toni Morrison's Jazz Critics.” Journal of American Studies 31. 2 (Aug., 1997): 235-251. Murfin, Ross and Suprryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. New York: Macmillan Press LTD., 1998. O’Keefe, Charles. “Sinking One’s Teeth into Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter: Lessons of Cadmus.” Research in African Literatures 40. 2 (Spring 2009): 63-81. Page, Philip. “Traces of Derrida in Toni Morrison's Jazz Traces of Derrida in Toni Morrison's Jazz.” African American Review 29. 1 (Spring, 1995): 55-66.
  39. 39. 40 B. DIENG: Male Midlife Crisis in So Long a Letter and Jazz Paquet-Deyris, Anne-Marie. “Toni Morrison's Jazz and the City.” African American Review 35. 2 (Summer, 2001): 219-231. Rosenberg, Stanley D, and Michael P. Farrell. “Identity and Crisis in Middle Aged Men”. The Age of Aging: A Reader in Social Gerontology. Ed. Abraham Monk. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1979. 134-153. Sweeney, Megan. “Something Rogue': Commensurability, Commodification, Crime, and Justice in Toni Morrison's Later Fiction.” MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 52.2 (Summer 2006): 440-69. Treherne, Matthew. “Figuring in, Figuring out: Narration and Negotiation in Toni Morrison's "Jazz." Narrative 11. 2 (May, 2003): 199-212. Wethington, Elaine. “Expecting Stress: Americans and the ‘Midlife Crisis’.” Motivation and Emotion 24.2 (2000): 85-103. Woolf, Virginia. “A Room of One’s Own.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. General Editor. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. 1021-1025.
  40. 40. Safara, UFR de Lettres & Sciences Humaines, Université Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis, Sénégal, n°9 & 10, janvier 2011 The Construction of Self (-Identity) in Hausa Verbal Art Chaibou Elhadji OUMAROU* Résumé: La construction de l’identité personnelle dans l’art verbal haoussa Les premières études sur les traditions et littératures orales africaines ont été largement axées sur la façon dont l'environnement influence l'artiste traditionnel et son travail. S'inspirant de l'anthropologie et de la litterature médiévale, ces études étaient plus intéressées à étudier les modes de vie des peuples dits primitifs que d’analyser leurs récits oraux comme des œuvres de création littéraire individuelle. L'intérêt dans l'artiste traditionnel comme créateur d’œuvres artistiques est un développement récent dans la recherche et critique littéraire contemporaines. Conformément à ce nouvel intérêt, des chercheurs comme Isidore Okpewho (1992) ont appelé leurs collègues à travailler pour l’identification des techniques pouvant contribuer à singulariser des artistes traditionnels en accordant une attention particulière à la façon dont ces artistes créent leurs identités individuelles parfois contre les pressions des traditions locales. C’est dans cet esprit que cet article explore la construction de l’identité personnelle et artistique de certains artistes haoussa à travers l'auto-identification dans leurs chansons. En d'autres termes, l’article va examiner la création de l’identité personnelle et artistique, c’est-à-dire comment un artiste traditionnel exprime ses préoccupations privées ou individuelles distinctes des préoccupations collectives dans le contexte de la culture populaire. En utilisant des approches théoriques sur les cultures et littératures orales ou populaires, l’article va donc examiner des chansons des artistes populaires haoussa en focalisant sur les tensions entre leurs horizons d'attente sous la forme de leurs aspirations à la liberté, la réussite personnelle et le bonheur * Enseignant-chercheur à l’Université Abou Moumouni, Niger.
  41. 41. 42 C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art d'une part et sur les contraintes sociales et culturelles inhérentes à leurs communautés d'autre part, témoignant ainsi d'un vrai travail de création littéraire. Mots clés auto-identification ; identite ; art verbal ; Haoussa ; Yan Kama ; médiéval ; anthropologie ; philologie; Niger ; Nigeria. Introduction Does literary creation exist in oral civilizations? What is literary creativity in oral literature? In other words, does self exist in oral literature? Or does the oral artist exist as an individual expressing or narrating his self or her self in a popular, oral culture? Many scholars asked these same questions before, but their answers have been different or even contradictory. On my part I first intend to explore the causes of the scholars’ divergence in their interpretations of literary creativity in oral civilizations in general and in oral literature in particular as well as the influence those interpretations have had on the early studies on African oral traditions and literatures. This exploration will also stand as a review of the literature in the study and criticism of oral civilization and literature in general and of African oral literatures in particular. Then in the second part I will focus on the artists Zabia Hussei and Dogon Loma, a burlesque comedian, both from Niger and others from Nigeria such as Maman Shata Katsina. My interest in these artists lies in how they construct their identities as artists through self-identification as authorial signature in their oral songs or performances. In other words, the paper will investigate notions of self as a mark of literary creativity and identity through the creative endeavour of these oral artists in their attempt to express either their private or individual concerns as distinct from the collective ones in their traditional, community-oriented context of popular culture or to single out some individuals as major achievers or heroes. But what is literary creativity in oral literature, to begin with?
  42. 42. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 43 According to M. a M. Ngal (1977:336), in every work in oral tradition “…there occurs a true labor of creativity that is not the work of an anonymous community or of associations due to pure chance but is rather the product of the active dynamism of the individual genius.” The question that arises, pursues Ngal, is whether the presence of the creative act is passive or active. Passive if the artist undergoes the act from society without any resistance and active if the act is personal and original. Since tradition is a communal reservoir from which everybody can draw something, creativity is the active reaction of the artist who re-expresses that given in his/her own fashion. For it is that fashion or style, argues Ngal, “that truly constitutes literary creation.”(p.343) In the same line of thought, Rosalind Thomas (1992) sees the signs of self through the expression of individual feelings, the mention of one’s own personal affairs and personality. But scholars on medieval Europe who are influenced by the nineteenth century schools of thought like Evolutionism and Romanticism argued that the self or individual did not exist in the Middle Ages in general and before the Renaissance in particular. In a discussion on epic poetry in Finland, for example, Lauri Honko (1990:3) relates the prevailing idea that epic poetry is the creation of the collectivity to the influence of the romantic period. As a result, Honko concludes, “The moment a single author could be singled out, the product ceased to be folklore, because collectivity was the dividing line between folk poetry and art poetry.” It follows from Honko’s argument that the birth of art poetry is concomitant with the birth of the individual author, which in turn implies a break with the ancient notion of collective authorship mostly symbolized by the Troubadour in Europe. This break is also the argument of Gregory B. Stone in the book entitled The Death of the Troubadours: the Late Medieval Resistance to the Renaissance (1994). As a matter of fact, Stone supports the notion of collective authorship by describing medieval Europe as a period in which “the singular, individual subject is in fact plural, or I is essentially identical to the they. The medieval I can only think what they think, can only say what they have already said. (Stone: 2-3; emphasis in the original) In other words, the concept of the individual or self as an independent entity and identity did not exist
  43. 43. 44 C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art in the pre-renaissance or medieval world (see also Peter Haidu 1974:7). Both Honko and Stone equate individualism or selfhood with Renaissance, which means a break between the medieval and modern worlds. While Honko speaks of the moment a single author could be identified as the birth of art poetry, Stone speaks of Renaissance as the beginning of the subjective self. This is why for Stone, the Renaissance or modern world is characterized by an “unprecedented birth of the concept and possibility of the individual, subjective self, the private, self-determining, unique, autonomous ego.” (Stone1994: 1) Lee Patterson (1990:92) also sees the Renaissance as the beginning of the modern world along with its humanism, nationalism, the proliferation of competing value systems, the secure grasp of a historical consciousness, aesthetic production as an end in itself, and the emergence of the idea of the individual. But what were the real obstacles, if there was any, to the emergence of self before the late medieval period? For scholars like A. J. Minnis (1984) the most important obstacle to the emergence of self in that period was the influence of the Christian religion. This is because in the eyes of the medieval Christians, the Bible was the most authoritative text par excellence and God was its Supreme author. Next to God as the primary author came the ancient pagan “author” whose experience and style were needed for the interpretation of certain biblical texts. Moreover, because the pagan “author” was not Christian, he could claim the authorship of his texts, which is the reason why he was considered arrogant at the time in contrast to the humble “author”, the one reluctant to claim the authority of his ideas and style. It was therefore the existence of humble authors in a greater number that led to the emergence of the medieval notion of a collective authorship as described by Gregory B Stone (1994) and others above. For that reason, comments Minnis, the twelfth century exegetes (and also early literary critics) were mostly interested in human authors as vessels of God’s authority and as such important only to the extent that they uncovered the Biblical truth. It was therefore this pattern that the exegetes strove to describe, not the specific quality or creativity of any human author.
  44. 44. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 45 As for Stephen G. Nichols (1977:88), the influence of philology on medieval studies is responsible for the neglect of the human author’s creativity and stylistic originality. In fact, Nichols has noted that philology limited the role of the artist, the poet in particular, to that of “a discoverer, an unveiler.” (idem.) It comes as no surprise that for Nichols, modern theories like formalism and structuralism that have attempted to kill the author found their origin in this medieval practice. Other obstacles came from theories based on limited areas of study and consciously avoiding the creative effort of the oral artist. In Troubadours and Eloquence (1975), Linda M. Paterson disputes one example of those theories that attribute the lack of individuality to the troubadour artist on the ground that the theory in question is mainly concerned with the lyric poetry of the trouvères oral artists in northern France. Paterson concludes that such a theory, “consciously avoiding individuality” (2), is inadequate to account for every literary production from different contexts through space and time. The efficient cause or creative individual artist, notes A. J. Minnis (1981), started to emerge in the thirteenth century with John Spencer who was one of the first artists to accept personal authorship or responsibility of their texts. As a matter of fact, Spencer refused to follow the convention of his time by accepting “full responsibility for the sinful material that he wrote, and hopes that Christ in his mercy will forgive his sins.” (Minnis 1981:379) Like the authors mentioned before, Minnis (1977) also considers the late Medieval period as the moment when the human author started to receive critical attention and interest. In the light of this change in attitude in the late Medieval period, scriptural exegetes started to be more interested in the adornments of language or style of the works under their consideration. Thus they stressed the fact that the human authors could manipulate “their styles with full awareness of the power of rhetorical figures.” (Minnis 1977:56) What is more, the thirteenth century commentators went even further as they started to used style as “the basis of an argument about another literary point, for example, about the authorship of a text.” (Minnis: idem.)
  45. 45. 46 C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art But if the change in attitude in favour of the adornment of language or style of the artist started in the thirteenth century, why did it take long to be accounted for in the study of African literature in general, and of oral literature in particular? One important reason has been the influence of movements like Romanticism and Evolutionism on the early studies on African oral traditions and literatures (see also Emilio Jorge Rodriguez (1994). Drawing from anthropological and medieval written discourses, these studies were in fact more interested in seeing oral narratives as records of a people’s way of life than as works of individual literary creation, making the interest in the oral performer as an individual artist a recent development. No wonder that while analyzing the new trends in oral tradition research in Africa, Ruth Finnegan (1991:111) notes “more interest in questions of artistry and individual expression than before when the stereotypes of ‘communal’ culture and lack of change within cultures or contexts defined as ‘traditional’ often precluded the apparent relevance of such questions.” Finnegan also notices a second interest developing in the oral-written interaction and the process of change in general. Change is now granted to all cultures, not just to western ones. For all cultures do change and not necessarily in the evolutionist or linear way as thought by some western-centred intellectuals. In line with this new interest, scholars like Isidore Okpewho (1992) called on their colleagues to look for the particular techniques and references in the African oral performances that could point to a particular composer in a community, paying attention to ways in which the personality of the oral artist emerges and is sometimes forcefully asserted against the pressure of local tradition. An important objective of this article is to take up that call by examining the processes by which Hausa popular artists construct their artistic identities. As a result, the article is an attempt to explore how the Hausa oral artists below struggle to construct their artistic and personal identities through techniques of their own.
  46. 46. Safara, Université G. B., Saint-Louis, n° 9 & 10, Janvier 2011 47 Some Hausa Oral Artists and their Struggle to Construct Artistic and personal Identities Zabia Hussei As I attempted to show elsewhere (Elhadji Oumarou 2010), Hussei’s songs are influenced by her personal experience. Married off by her father to one of her cousins she does not love, the young singer promised to comply with her father’s decision as a way to show her respect for both her father and tradition. Happy and honored to see his daughter comply with his wishes and demands, Zabia's father gave her his blessings and authorized her to resume her singing, free to go anywhere to perform. To avoid conflicts with her father, Zabia uses a style of disguise to veil the tensions between her ambition of selfexpression, self-reliance, self-confidence and economic independence on the one hand and her community’s cultural norms and family restrictions or pressures on the other hand. Examples of those tensions and conflicts are expressed through the young singer’s regrets concerning her promise to her father that she will never leave her unloved husband. She voices the regrets by not encouraging other girls to follow her steps in making that kind of promise. Instead, she advises them to marry the boys they love because 'the promise of a young girl is to love the boy who loves her’, (alƙawalin gomma ta so mai son ta). Likewise, in the following excerpt that sounds like a synopsis of her bitter experience in marriage, the mature singer encourages the young girls to love the boys who love them rather than accept a forced marriage: Domin na ƙaya ta huje salka, in don ni gomma ki so mai son ki I don’t mind a thorn piercing a waterskin I don’t mind a girl loving the man who loves her. The expression is allusive: a waterskin is a very handy domestic utensil in the Sahel region where water is a rare commodity and where carrying a waterskin is a marker of identity. Here a thorn piercing a waterskin can be interpreted as an attack on
  47. 47. 48 C. E. OUMAROU : Construction of Self in Hausa Verbal Art tradition, a call for destruction of the old system, a call for change, particularly where marriage is concerned. The maturing singer signals her engagement to the cause of female liberation and her opposition to abusive paternal authority. Hussei extends her rebellious message to the male audience, especially young men on whom she calls to resist forced marriage by securing the means to pay the dowry for the young women they love: ‘young men, he who loves a girl should marry at his own expense’, [Samari ma duk mai son gomma shi armi ta kai nai] (Elhadji Oumarou 1996:80-81; revised 2010). This call for independence derives in part from the singer’s dissatisfaction with “zumunta” or blood relations, often strengthened by the added bonds of marriages, regardless of the partners’ willingness or unwillingness. Hussei’s anger with this situation leads her to virulent attacks on “zumunta”. She laments in one song that "Family isn’t worth a thing nowadays,” [yohi sakare zumuntar yanzu] (Elhadji Oumarou 1996: 82-83; revised in 2010). The theme of regret of unnatural submission to paternal authority surfaces constantly in metaphorical terms in the songs of maturity: Zamman alwashi cikkar rabo shika sawa: alwashin kara a sha shi da ɗanye. Living by a pledge is risky; the pledge of sugar-cane is to give juice when it is fresh. (Elhadji Oumarou 1996:58-59; revised in 2010) Another risk is to become pregnant by the husband she does not love. After the experience of motherhood, the female persona in one of Zabia Hussei’s later songs, who as we now understand is clearly an autobiographical voice, compares herself to dry sugarcane which can no longer produce juice. Added to the notion of regret is a sense of lost opportunity, deeply felt with the increase in years and the waning of beauty: Alwashin kara a sha shi da ɗanye, in ya kekashe ku damre darni The pledge of a fresh stalk of sugar-cane is to give up its juice; when old and dry, it is only good for fencing.

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