Program in Comparative Literature

Hélène Tissières


Associate ProfessorPh.D., 2001, French, New York University

Associate Professor of French
Hélène Tissières

Contact

Interests


African (North and sub-Saharan) literature written in French, Caribbean literature written in French, African and French film, African contemporary art, Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art, West African music, recent French literature (immigration).

Biography


Research

Hélène Tissières's works break down barriers between North and sub-Saharan Africa and between the arts. In her book Écritures en transhumance entre Maghreb et Afrique subsaharienne (2007), she investigates several circulations: geographic – between North and sub-Saharan Africa; cultural – between orality and writing; and aesthetic – between literature and painting. This led her also to analyze the silences that arise from fragmented writing. In one of the chapters, she draws links between writing and painting, showing that the writers Khatibi, Meddeb and Farès use signs or painting in order to transmit information that goes beyond language. This approach emphasizes that the arts are closely linked throughout the continent and that signs migrate from one object or medium to another. The second part of the book documents these circulations in the works of four writers: the Tunisian Abdelwahab Meddeb, whose texts refer to contemporary painting, tracing a parallel between abstraction and Sufism; the Cameroonian Werewere Liking and the Congolese Tchicaya U Tam’Si, both of whom incorporate elements from the oral tradition and are inspired by ritual or divination systems; and the Algerian Assia Djebar who invests visual images, moving away from relying solely on the use of language. 

Thanks to a Fulbright Hélène Tissières taught at the University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal, from 2003-05 and has since been writing on the Dakar Biennale of Contemporary African Art. In 2011, she taught for six months at Kwara State University, Nigeria. Her second book entitled Créations et défis au Sénégal: Sembène, Diop, Diadji et Awadi (2013) is about the works of four Senegalese figures: Ousmane Sembene, writer and filmmaker, Boubacar Boris Diop, novelist, Iba Ndiaye Diadji, art critic and Didier Awadi, rapper. It examines how they position themselves to question social norms, political or religious absolutes, and international prerogatives. In Senegal, where the practice of Maslaa regulates people’s exchanges and promotes tolerance and politeness, this study shows how these writers confront taboos (role of women, corruption, social inequalities), while unsettling norms.

Interested in the way the arts are intertwined throughout Africa, she has been writing on literature, visual arts (in particular painting), film and music. Her book Écritures en transhumance (2007) appeared in English (2012) at Virginia University Press (2012), translated by Marjolijn de Jager: Transmigrational Writings between the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa: Literature, Orality, Visual Arts

Presently Hélène Tissières is curating a major exhibition in Switzerland as homage to the Dakar Biennale. It will show the works of 30 established contemporary African artists who have participated in the Dak’Art from 2004 to 2014, such as Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Binebine, Erruas, Dime, Keita, Lô. The exhibition will run from June 10 to September 18, 2016 in Martigny, Switzerland at the Manoir and in different museums and public spaces throughout the city. Several artistic mediums will be showcased: painting, photography, video installations, and sculpture. A catalog of over 100 pages that explains the work of each artist will be published.

 

Affiliated Research/Academic Unit

• Centre for Middle Eastern Studies

• Comparative literature program

• Center for European Studies

Courses


C L 386 • Caribbean & African Literature

33665 • Fall 2011
Meets MW 1230pm-200pm HRH 2.106C
(also listed as FR 390N)

Description:  This course will examine literary works of the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa from both the colonial and postcolonial period. We will be looking at the various treatments of similar themes (exile, displacement, “errancy”) and be analyzing the different positions taken around the notion of identity. We will try to comprehend the many connections as well as differences between Africa and the Caribbean and between writers by studying in depth the literary works and examining key critical essays written on colonization, identity, “creolisation”. We will also see a few films to enrich our discussions.


READINGS:

- Aimé Césaire Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal

- Senghor Choix de poèmes (Packet)

- Daniel Maximin Isolé Soleil

- Jean Metellus Au pipirite chantant (extract)

- Joël DesRosiers Vétiver (extract)

- Maryse Condé Moi Tituba, sorcière … Noire de Salem

- Tchicaya U Tam’Si Les Méduses ou les orties de mer

- Emile Ollivier Passages

 

SECONDARY READINGS:

  - Ki-Zerbo Histoire de l’Afrique noire (extract)

- Césaire Discours sur le colonialisme (extract)

- Glissant Le discours antillais (extract)

- Glissant Introduction à une poétique du divers (extract)

- Depestre Le métier à métisser  (extract)

- Bernabé, Chamoiseau, Eloge de la créolité

   Confiant

 

FILMS:

- Euzhan Palcy Aimé Césaire: Une voix pour l’histoire

- Christian Lara Sucre Amer

- Cheick Oumar Sissoko La Genèse

 

ASSIGNMENTS AND COMPUTATION OF GRADE:

Presentation   20%

Outline final essay 10%

Final Essay 60%

Participation 10%

 

Students will be asked to keep up with the reading assignments and participate in class discussions.

For those outside the French Department, translations may be read.

Publications


This book represents several circulations: geographic – between North and sub-Saharan Africa; cultural – between orality and writing; and aesthetic – between literature and painting. In part II, it analyses works by the Tunisian Abdelwahab Meddeb, whose texts refer to contemporary painting, tracing a parallel between abstraction and Sufism; the Cameroonian Werewere Liking and the Congolese Tchicaya U Tam’Si, both of whom incorporate elements from the oral tradition and are inspired by ritual or divination systems; and the Algerian Assia Djebar who turns to visual images, moving away from relying solely on the use of language. 

Curriculum Vitae


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