Prof. Cheikh Ndiaye

Union College Department of Modern Languages

The Door of No Return
The Door of No Return
(Gorée Island: Maison des Esclaves,


I hold an M.A. from the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar (Senegal). My Master’s thesis, “L’épopée orale sérère: La geste de San Moon Fay,” which I defended in July 1993 at the University of Dakar in Senegal is a result of field work conducted in 1992. It consisted of a collection and recording of an oral epic from different “Griots” (troubadours in a European context) in Senegal. It included a transcription into the local dialect (Serere), a translation into French, and a literary analysis. The study examines the epic story of San Moon Fay, a historical and legendary king in the late nineteenth century whose figure in the ancient Serere kingdom in Senegal provides a strong model of thoughts and beliefs in pre-colonial West African societies. By considering the mythical representations and socio-political organizations of this ancient kingdom, the story shows how local forms of cultural expression are derived from oral genres- tales and epics- and how these shape written literatures, both colonial and postcolonial, through their oral literary devices.
The revision and the publication of my Master’s thesis are a top priority. One of the chapters has been published by Les Editions Karthala in Paris in 1997 in Les Epopees Africaines, a book written by L. Kesteloot and B. Dieng, two distinguished scholars in African oral literature. I have also written paper conferences relating to the thesis and I am committed to turn them into academic articles for publication. Thanks to a research grant recently awarded by the Humanities Faculty Development Board at Union College for the summer 2002, l was able to conduct further research related to the thesis, so that ultimately, it may be published in book form.

My Ph.D dissertation in French Studies from the University of Connecticut: “Reawakening the Repressed: Post-colonial Narrative Strategies in Calixthe Beyala’s Tu t’appelleras Tanga, Rachid Momouni’s La Malédiction, and Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco,” - considers specific defensible narrative strategies in postcolonial literatures, with a focus on these three representative writers from the Francophone world. Calixthe Beyala is a woman writer from Cameroon, Rachid Mimouni and Patrick Chamoiseau are both male writers from Algeria and Martinique respectively. My work treats these authors’ efforts to emerge from the colonial legacy and the “disillusionment of independence” to forge a new “postcolonial identity.” By reading Tu t’appelleras Tanga, La Malédiction, and Texaco, I have sought to emphasize these writers’ shared uses of the French language. I argue that their style destabilizes the readers, especially those outside these specific cultural spaces, by confronting them with hitherto unfamiliar images, figures, and symbols directly derived from local meanings and repressed desires. I also address the ways these writers surpass certain colonial quarrels by mobilizing their critical vision in regard to the gender, religious, and political conflicts they individually witness or experience.

My research interest is on Francophone studies with a focus on West African oral traditions and on post-colonial literature from West Africa, North Africa, and the Caribbean. With the completion of my Master’s thesis and my doctoral dissertation , I now feel comfortable writing about a variety of demanding topics that relate to the culture and literature of those French speaking regions. In my research interest, I am concerned with the relationship between pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial literatures. My interest in these types of literature consists of exploring particularly oral genres, and more specifically the function of their infusion into colonial and post-colonial literatures. I argue that North and West African, and Caribbean post-colonial literatures very much imbued with local literary devices, mainly oral, and this challenges Eurocentric notions of “universal” and “purity” in language and writing. I view this as going beyond the aesthetic to reflect as well a narrative and political strategy in the construction of a new national identity.

Along with my research interest, I am very committed to teaching that I perceive as a mission. As for language teaching, I believe in interaction as a pedagogical method to achieve a proficiency in oral skills.  When teaching culture to my students, I always use literary masterpieces to expose them to the main patterns of my target culture, show them how the patterns function in this culture, so they can understand the meaning of such or such cultural trait without being biased in their judgments.

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