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Lyakhovskaya N.D. “Beauty of the Past”: Traditional Aesthetic Canon and Female Characters in Francophone African Literatures. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 4, pp. 90–105. (In Russ.)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-4-90-105

Author: Nina D. Lyakhovskaya
Information about the author:

Nina D. Lyakhovskaya, DSc in Philology, Associate Professor, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 а, 121069 Moscow, Russia.

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Received: October 12, 2017
Published: December 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №4
Department: World Literature
Pages: 90-105

UDK: 821.112.6
BBK: 83.3(6)
Keywords: traditional aesthetic ideal, the African woman, Senghor, poetry, impersonalism, romance studies, sculpture, culture Ife, mask.


The article examines the influence of traditional aesthetic canon on the representation of women in African poetry and novels. It emphasizes the crucial role of an eminent Senegalian poet Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906–2001), the founder of négritude theory. Since the 1930s, he praised the beauty of a Black woman in his poems, odes and elegies. Senghor compared European and African aesthetic ideals and prompted African artists and sculptors to seek emotional effect instead of verisimilitude. He found his model in African sculpture and masks. Impersonalism as a major trait of African traditional ideal is inherent in the female images we encounter in African poetry and novels including those by Senghor. Female characters including protagonists in African novels lack any psychological nuances and are poorly individuated. The description of their visual appearance is very schematic: women are compared to terracotta heads of the Ife culture, female figures-amulets of the Ashanti people, etc. Impersonalism decreases literary value of African romances and reveals the presence of archaic collectivist consciousness that does not take into account the unique value of an individual.


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