The Concept of Negritude in the Poetry of Leopold Sedar Senghor

The Concept of Negritude in the Poetry of Leopold Sedar Senghor

Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 318
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    The Concept of Negritude in the Poetry of Leopold Sedar Senghor
    Book Description:

    Negritude has been defined by Léopold Sédar Senghor as "the sum of the cultural values of the black world as they are expressed in the life, the institutions, and the works of black men." Sylvia Washington Bâ analyzes Senghor's poetry to show how the concept of negritude infuses it at every level. A biographical sketch describes his childhood in Senegal, his distinguished academic career in France, and his election as President of Senegal.

    Themes of alienation and exile pervade Senghor's poetry, but it was by the opposition of his sensitivity and values to those of Europe that he was able to formulate his credo. Its key theme, and the supreme value of black African civilization, is the concept of life forces, which are not attributes or accidents of being, but the very essence of being. Life is an essentially dynamic mode of being for the black African, and it has been Senghor's achievement to communicate African intensity and vitality through his use of the nuances, subtleties, and sonorities of the French language.

    In the final chapter Sylvia Washington Bâ discusses the future of Senghor's belief that the black man's culture should be recognized as valid not simply as a matter of human justice, but because the values of negritude could be instrumental in the reintegration of positive values into western civilization and the reorientation of contemporary man toward life and love.

    Originally published in 1973.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6713-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-viii)
    Léopold Sédar Senghor
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER I From the Sine to the Seine
    (pp. 3-26)

    Liberié, égalité, fraternité:the ideals of the French Revolution of 1789 shaped France’s official colonial policy into an assimilationist mold that found its greatest expression in Senegal. As is almost always the case, the gulf between theory and practice was a wide one, but nowhere more than in Senegal was the policy of making black Frenchmen of colonized Africans more vigorously enforced. Of course, France as a colonial power had vested interests that were anything but cultural, but we need not dwell on this obvious aspect. In their often well-intentioned though ill-informed efforts to bring light into the darkness, the...

  5. CHAPTER II The Experience of Negritude: Exile and the Kingdom
    (pp. 27-43)

    Among the qualities, experiences, and attitudes constituting negritude, the most outstanding is the heritage of suffering. All literary expression of the black man has reference to this theme, as it is impossible to speak of him without recalling the historical fact that has marked him most deeply: servitude, either directly through slavery or indirectly through colonization. Conditioned, if not by the actual experience of slavery, at least by the knowledge of its existence as an integral part of his past, the black man feels himself doubly wronged by the complete gratuitousness of this condition. His feeling of innocence is frustrated...

  6. CHAPTER III The Basis of Negritude: Black African Ontology
    (pp. 44-73)

    Senghor’s poetry itself is the most eloquent expression to be found of negritude both in theme and in mode of expression. In even a cursory reading of his poems, the reader is immediately aware of a particular atmosphere, a certain exoticism created by the sonorous names of persons, places, flora, and fauna. In this setting, he treats the traditional themes of love, death, solitude, suffering, the beauty of nature, of woman, longing for the homeland. What, then, justifies the description of this poetry as distinctively black African? What distinguishes this tropical setting and these lyric themes from romantic exoticism? Close...

  7. CHAPTER IV The Expression of Negritude: Black African Psychophysiology
    (pp. 74-109)

    One of the cornerstones of Senghorian negritude is the affirmation of a specific psychophysiology proper to the black man, traces of which persist regardless of his environment or degree of acculturation. Senghor sees as a permanent characteristic of the black man a certain emotive sensitivity, an affective rapport with the forces and forms of the universe, a direct and immediate contact with “the Other.” His poetry offers numerous examples of visceral physical response elicited by stimuli with personal, emotional overtones. This extreme sensitivity on the part of the black man to everything that presents itself to his consciousness and senses...

  8. CHAPTER V The Fundamental Traits of Negritude: Rhythm and Imagery
    (pp. 110-151)

    The most salient and constant feature of black African expression is rhythm. This rhythmic aspect of the black African’s personality is a function of his conception of life and of the organization of the universe and his way of reacting to these realities. Because black African culture has remained close to nature, it has evolved a way of life intensely conscious of the rhythmic patterns of natural phenomena and forms, a way of life designed to function within this rhythmic framework. On all levels of physical reality, whether cosmic or human, rhythmic movement is an essential characteristic: the seasonal cycle,...

  9. CHAPTER VI The Future of Negritude: The “Civilization of the Universal”
    (pp. 152-180)

    The poet who disposes of the gifts of vision, imagery, and rhythmic communion with the universe and his fellow man constantly gives evidence of his sense of duty as the “Ambassador of the Black Race.”¹

    Let me die for my people’s cause, and if need be in the stench of powder and cannon.

    Preserve and entrench in my liberated heart the foremost love of this same people.

    Make me your Master of Language; no, name me their ambassador.²

    In his prefatory remarks to the appendix ofNocturnes,Senghor states his intention of writing first of all for his people. Yet...

    (pp. 183-280)
    (pp. 281-290)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-298)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 299-305)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 306-306)