This thesis explores various aspects of Initiation in Francophone West African and Caribbean Novel and Cinema. It first examines the foundations and principles of ritual initiation and studies the essential features of the ritual act, among which its symbolic, religious and social dimensions, as well as its relationships with myth. It stresses the close relationship between myth and ritual, in order to show how initiation represents a religious, anthropological and social reality. A detailed study of the three main stages of initiation is then provided: (a) Tribal initiation, for integration into an age group; (b) Initiation for integration into a secret society; and (c) Initiation for integration into the divine realm. All three forms of initiation express people's yearning for a "total" life based on the vital interaction among individuals, the ultimate welfare of the community, and the perfect harmony between man, nature and cosmic forces.
The following section is a scrutiny of the characteristics and dimensions of allegorical initiation, which shows how various symbolic elements help mankind to establish a form of kinship with nature and cosmic forces, with the ultimate goal of achieving some kind of moral and psychic balance. It also provides an explanation of how the initiatory experience is at the heart of the epic symbolism, thus revealing the human being's existential anguish. Furthermore, initiation appears as the expression of a strong will to re-conquer the past, the origins, to re-build a disrupted and confused identity, and thus becomes a way to revive the historical heritage of Africa and its Caribbean diaspora. Ultimately, the study expands on the symbolism of the initiatory journey, and shows how this expresses the quest for knowledge, immortality and transcendence with the intent of achieving "self-accomplishment".
Novels and films studied in this thesis include works by Camara Laye, Massa Makan Diabaté, Ahmadou Kourouma, Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Jean-Marie Adiaffi, Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Edouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jacques Roumain, Euzhan Palcy, Dani Kouyaté, Souleymane Cissé, with a theorethical framework based on works of Mircea Eliade, Gilbert Durand, Sory Camara and Youssouf Cissé.