Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French & Italian

First Advisor

Andrew J. Cowell

Second Advisor

Mildred P. Mortimer

Third Advisor

Michael J. Preston

Fourth Advisor

Elisabeth M. Bloomfield

Fifth Advisor

Kieran M. Murphy


My dissertation considers West African Francophone literature in its relationship with local traditional oral literature. This study examines the intertextual dialogue between the Zarma-Songhoï oral narrative, The Epic Of Askia Mohammed, and the modern fictional tale of Toula, by contemporary Zarma-Songhoï writer, Boubou Hama. The study emerges from the necessity to correct persistent and inappropriate appreciations of local ethnographic specificities in the current academic treatments of West African Francophone literature. Aimed as a modest contribution to the study of the relationship between oral traditions and modern literature in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, this study is divided in three parts.

Part I considers Askia’s transgressions against fundamental cultural values as ground to disqualifying him as an epic hero. To that end, Chapter One of Part I engages the problematic of the affiliation of the African corpus to the epic genre. Chapter Two reviews Thomas Hale’s The Epic Of Askia Mohammed. Chapter Three and Chapter Four contextualize the textual analysis within the Zarma-Songhoï cultural base and against the relevant local ethnographic specificities. Chapter Five concludes Part I with the exploration of Askia’s dualing Islamic and Songhoï profile.

In Part II, I present Boubou Hama’s Toula. This section examines, in Chapter One, the different versions of the Toula story and how Hama responds to them. Chapter Two contextualizes the legend of Toula within a tense geopolitical context where co-existent ethnic communities clash around the control of access to natural resources.

In Part III, I explore Toula’s intertextual dialogue with the Zarma-Songhoï oral tradition. I propose that in response to The Epic Of Askia Mohammed, Boubou Hama’s Francophone text, Toula, operates a corrective ritual designed to cleanse the entire culture from the stain of Askia’s crimes, crime which represent the act of forsaking traditional values and laws. Ultimately, I argue that Hama’s relationship with not only the oral legend of Toulé but with other oral traditions, such as The Epic of Askia Mohammed and Wagadu, should be envisioned as a form of cultural resistance based upon a skillful integration of symbolic ethnographic elements that frame a dialogue with his own Zarma-Songhoï oral traditions.