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Abstract

This dissertation examines, through a historical, literary and theological framework, the representation of the apocalypse and end of times in Francophone sub-Saharan African and Caribbean fictional narratives published between 1968 and 1990. While using as a starting point Gérard Peylet’s idea that “the end of times is a fundamental myth of Western culture”, this work considers the specificity and singularity of the apocalypse and end of times in Francophone African and Caribbean literatures. It argues that prose fiction from Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana produced in the context of crisis pertaining to 1968 (including the years that preceded and followed) reflected and shaped the anxiety occasioned by an increasingly uncertain socio-political atmosphere, while echoing the hope for a better future. As this study draws upon Northrop’s Frye’s theory of literature’s debt to the Bible, it highlights the intertextuality between these narratives and the biblical books of Daniel and Revelations. Although my work joins a vibrant conversation about the myths of apocalypse and the end of times, it addresses an understudied area in the African and Caribbean literary creation and critical production. It also provides new insight into the concepts of apocalypse and end of times, as it departs from the eschatological perspective of Western discourses, to explore these notions through a historical, literary and theological approach that reasserts the importance of the socio-political and cultural factors that have (re)configured the historical reality of the African and Caribbean people. The idea of apocalypse and end of times as bound to Western civilization and Christianity, especially the notion of final judgment is challenged in Francophone sub-Saharan African and Caribbean literary production of 1968-1990. By focusing on a problematic contemporary reality and envisioning a better future, fictional narratives of that time highlight a sense truer to the etymology of the word apocalypse (from the Greek word apokalypsis), that is, a “revelation”, an “unfolding or unveiling of things”. My historical, literary and theological approach to the notions of apocalypse and end of times focus on two areas of analysis: apocalyptic images and apocalyptic imaginary. I associate and juxtapose sub-Saharan and Caribbean texts to document the adaptation of these concepts, and their representation in contemporary fictional narratives, as they are transformed into the awakening of self-consciousness, the expression of freedom and equality and the celebration of diversity and hope. The inherent malleability and incredible projectivity of the apocalypse and end of times makes the analysis of their literary representations and critical interpretations even more fundamental. If biblical apocalyptic literature emerges as a strong model of revelation literature in terms of characters, images and symbols, the transplantation of these two concepts in different geographical and cultural contexts generates a new paradigm for describing and understanding apocalyptic literature in connection with tribulations and comfort, death and (re)birth.

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