Paradox and Paradise: Conflicting Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Nature in Aminata Sow Fall' s Douceurs du bercail Paradox and Paradise: Conflicting Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Nature in Aminata Sow Fall's Douceurs du bercail

Catherine Gardner, Guyon Van Uitert, Catherine Guyon Van Uitert, Catherine Guyon Van Uitert
2010 unpublished
In my thesis, I examine Aminata Sow Fall's sixth novel Douceurs du bercail "The Sweetness of Home" through three lenses: race, gender, and nature. I analyze the way Sow Fall approaches each of these three areas in terms of paradox to emphasize her understanding of the complexity of these issues and her reluctance to outline them rigidly. Instead of putting forth hard opinions about how race, gender, or nature should be understood, Sow Fall exhibits a propensity to allow each area to remain
more » ... icated. I study why she allows racial, gendered, and environmental paradoxes to circulate around one another in her text rather than attempting to resolve them, concluding that she uses this strategy both as an organizing principle and as an invitation to her readers to question the extant theories surrounding these three issues. Sow Fall's use of language in all three areas signals an underlying fascination with the paradoxes inherent in each. In the chapter on race, I discuss the contrasting narrative styles Sow Fall uses to describe European airport officials versus the protagonist Asta's best friend, a French woman named Anne. Sow Fall's language is significant here because she contrasts two white Europeans, one characterized as systematic and cold, the other warm and open, respectively. I also discuss the way Sow Fall uses an informal and lethargic narrative voice to characterize a black secretary living in Senegal, further highlighting the disconnect between the two racial groups. In the chapter on feminism, I discuss a shift in Asta's language as she becomes more assertive. I also analyze the various aspects of femininity in Douceurs du bercail which have led some scholars to carry out feminist readings of the text, such as Asta's decision to leave her domineering and abusive husband, but recognize the more traditional aspects of the novel, such as Asta's marriage to Babou at Naatangué, as problematic to a purely feminist reading of the text. In the chapter on nature, I study Sow Fall's problematic use of Westernized language to describe the development of the untouched land of Naatangué into a lucrative farm. Throughout the chapters, I interpret Naatangué as the ultimate paradoxical space which is at once wrought with complicated language and conflicting ideals yet acts as a quasi-paradise where Asta and her friends balance the conflicting forces of tradition and modernity. Naatangué also acts as an organizing principle where all three areas of my study intersect.