Ashland University Professor Writes Book on Francophone African Cultural History

Ashland University Professor Writes Book on Francophone African Cultural History

9/25/14 ASHLAND, Ohio – Dr. Richard Gray, assistant professor of French at Ashland University, has written a new book titled “Francophone African Poetry and Drama: A Cultural History since the 1960s,” published by McFarland.

“I wrote this book because I wanted to challenge the traditional notion that literature created in the former French colonies of Africa is merely an outgrowth of colonial literature,” Gray said. “I sought to write a book that focused on creating a cultural history of Francophone African poetry and theatre rather than a purely literary analysis.”

Gray said that in the preface to his book he states that “Literature is the lifeblood of a people.”

“By definition, ‘lifeblood’ is a life-giving force that flows through the veins of a people. It includes the imprint of a civilization’s past, its present and its future,” he said. “This ‘lifeblood’ contains the cultural DNA of a civilization. It is that cultural DNA of French-speaking Africa that I attempted to uncover.”

Gray said that many scholars who examine Francophone literature from the continent of Africa tend to see it as an extension of colonial literature.

“This book offers a new perspective on Francophone African poetry and theatre produced since African nations achieved independence by examining these two important literary genres through the framework of cultural history,” he said. “Most significantly, it suggests new ways of understanding how Francophone African poetry and theatre created since the 1960s is both an organic cultural product and a reflection of the diverse African cultures in which these literary forms originated.”

According to Gray, in five chapters, “Francophone African Poetry and Drama” explores themes such as African identity formation, the resistance to former notions of literary composition as art, a remapping of social responsibility, and the impact of globalization on Francophone Africa’s participation in geo-culture, geo-economics and geopolitics. The book also examines the “trappings” and “underpinnings” that make culture both understandable and transmittable.

The book features descriptive chapter titles including “The Black Man’s Burden and the Struggle for Independence,” “Oral Societies and Writing in the Language of the Oppressed,” “Francophone African Poetry in the Modern World,” “Histories, Legends and Myths in Francophone African Theatre,” and “Writing the Female Body in Francophone African Women’s Poetry and Theatre.” The book concludes with an appendix of the “Transcript of Barack Obama’s Speech at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial” as well as an appendix of “Recently Published Works by Francophone Women Writers.”

Gray, who joined Ashland University in 2013, also is editor of The Performance Identities of Lady Gaga: Critical Essays (2012) and co-editor (with Betty Kaklamanidou) of The 21st Century Superhero: Essays on Gender, Genre and Globalization in Film (2011). His articles include “Sexual Politics: Mapping the Body in Marguerite Duras’s L’Amant” in Romanica Silesiana 8 (2013), “Writing from the Left Bank: Reading Richard Wright’s Native Son and The Outsider against the Backdrop of Communism and French Existentialism” in Black Writers and the Left, Ed. Kristin Moriah, Cambridge Scholars (2013), “Moving Beyond the Margins: Identity Fragmentation in Visual Representation in Michel Tournier’s La Goutte d’or” in Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture 2 (2012), “A Matter of Fundamentals: Sound and Silence in the Radio Drama of Samuel Beckett” in Babilónia – Revista Lusófona de Línguas, Culturas e Tradução10/11 (2011), and “Performing War: Vichyite Ideology from Across the Sea in Camille Morel’s poetic radio dramatic work ‘France!..Présent!.. Poème épique Radiophonique et Théâtral en un acte et deux tableaux’” in InterCulture 5:3 (2008).

Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###