Guedeyi Hayatou joined WLC as an assistant professor of French this Fall 2020 semester.
Q: What made you decide to become a university professor of French? Tell us a little bit about your area of expertise!
A: I have always had a real passion for literature and languages and the desire to pass this on to others and to help young people develop was my main reason for deciding to become a professor.
My area of expertise is Francophone African literatures and cultures of the postcolonial era through 21st century.
Q: What have been some of your most memorable international experiences?
A: Learning new language (English) in the US and learning about American and Canadian cultures and meeting people from around the world really puts myself and my own culture (Franco-African) in perspective! I must say it has been such an enriching experience being able to live and study in the US and in Canada, after living in France and Cameroon in younger age. It has made me a more open-minded, well rounded individual.
Q: What is your favorite course to teach and why?
“Introduction to Francophone Literature and Culture” is my favorite course. It focuses on the Francophone world while developing greater facility in speaking, reading, and writing in French. The Francophone world is first presented through the history of colonization, the slave trade, and the decolonization movements in several areas such as the Caribbean, Senegal, and Algeria. I think it will have the effect of making more students on campus aware of the issues facing Francophone cultures in today’s global community. And by teaching that course, I would achieve several of my main goals as a professor of French, including promoting sensitivity to cultural diversity, developing critical thinking skills, and introducing Anglophone students to the rich literary traditions of the Francophone world.
Q: What has been the most challenging experience and what has been the most rewarding experience since COVID?
Last fall semester, all my two classes were conducted in-person. And the most challenging experience since COVID has been teaching with masks. While I have become accustomed to wearing masks, teaching and learning in them present a new set of challenges, it did impact my ability to pace my lesson. To be honest, it is incredibly annoying. In terms of the physicality of it all, I have to strain my voice all the time. And, because the students face is masked, it was difficult to tell from their facial expression if they are getting the lesson or not, if they are enjoying the class.
But while this challenge was so sudden for all of us: professors and students, I think there will be positives that will come out of this experience and will help us appreciate what we have and what we are able to do. And for me as a professor, it makes me appreciate being in the classroom with my students and interact with them.
Q: What media or books are you reading/watching/listening to lately? Anything you’d recommend?
I read a lot, and currently, I am reading for the fifth time Frantz Fanon’s classic: Black Skin, White Masks. That book offers a potent philosophical, clinical, literary and political analysis of the deep effects of racism and colonialism on the experiences, lives, minds and relationships of black people and people of color. Fanon’s other book The Wretched of the Earth is also a classic. And one of my inspiring and powerful quotes in that second book is: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”
I would also recommend the following books to those who are interested in/would like to know more about Francophone African literature and culture:
Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire (essay – Martinique)
Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament by In Koli Jean Bofane (novel – DR. Congo)
The Suns of Independence by Ahmadou Kourouma (novel – Ivory Coast)
The Belly of the Atlantic by Fatou Diome (novel – Senegal)
The Old Man and the Medal by Ferdinand Oyono (novel – Cameroon)