Identity à la Mode: Writing Fashion and Identity in Francophone Women’s Literature

By Ruth Burke.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Dakar garners accolades as a world class fashion center. No wonder, since Senegal reflects a paradigmatic nexus of indigenous and colonial cultural patterns. While its Islamic heritage plays out in both cuisine and couture, the superimposition of French schooling and western habits of mind has fueled an evolution in the construction of feminine identity as well as the ways in which both actual individuals and fictive characters dress themselves. This study analyzes a series of texts beginning with Mariama Ba’s “So Long A Letter” in terms of the interplay of internal and external self-presentation complicated by the confrontation between indigenous cultural scripts and those imposed by the culture of alterity. The resulting constructs establish an inverse relationship between hem lines, coiffures and a (post)colonial crisis of identity that continues to play out in contemporary feminine narratives.

Keywords: Fashion, Identity, Francophone Literature, French Postcolonial Literature, Women’s Literature

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp.209-216. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 545.713KB).

Dr. Ruth Burke

Associate Professor of French and German, World Languages and Literatures, California State University-San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, USA

Prof. Burke spent her formative years in the United Kingdom. Since immigrating to the United States, she earned her doctorate in comparative literature at the University of California, Riverside with a dissertation on ludic strategies for analyzing postmodern texts. She has taught at California State University San Bernardino since 1989. In addition to her interest in language pedagogy, she pursues unitive studies in ancient and modern languages, psychology, aesthetics, postcolonial studies, and literary theory. Her current research focuses on so-called postcolonial narratives primarily by women writers, She analyzes the self-representation of fictional exiles and immigrants as they enter into dialogue and dispute with a culture where the nature of their very existence is ambiguous. Characters are plotted, for example, against the exploration and extension of Jungian archetypes. Such ludic juxtaposition uncovers an intriguing narrative cadence that easily moves from generative loci in London to Paris, and to Berlin. There, colonizer and colonized are foregrounded against the soil of the metropolis. There, each promotes, deconstructs, or challenges Empire.


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