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Literature > African Literature

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Against Autobiography Cover

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Against Autobiography

Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory

Lia Nicole Brozgal

The work of Tunisian Jewish intellectual Albert Memmi, like that of many francophone Maghrebian writers, is often read as thinly veiled autobiography. Questioning the prevailing body of criticism, which continues this interpretation of most fiction produced by francophone North African writers, Lia Nicole Brozgal shows how such interpretations of Memmi’s texts obscure their not inconsiderable theoretical possibilities.

Calling attention to the ambiguous status of autobiographical discursive and textual elements in Memmi’s work, Brozgal shifts the focus from the author to theoretical questions. Against Autobiography places Memmi’s writing and thought in dialogue with several major critical shifts in the late twentieth-century literary and cultural landscape. These shifts include the crisis of the authorial subject; the interrogation of the form of the novel; the resistance to the hegemony of vision; and the critique of colonialism. Showing how Memmi’s novels and essays produce theories that resonate both within and beyond their original contexts, Brozgal argues for allowing works of francophone Maghrebi literature to be read as complex literary objects, that is, not simply as ethnographic curios but as generating elements of literary theory on their own terms.
 

The Anatomy of Blackness Cover

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The Anatomy of Blackness

Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment

Andrew S. Curran

This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences, describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era’s understanding of black Africans, and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the “black body” itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and, often, brutalized. Penetrating and comprehensive, The Anatomy of Blackness shows that, far from being a monolithic idea, eighteenth-century Africanist discourse emerged out of a vigorous, varied dialogue that involved missionaries, slavers, colonists, naturalists, anatomists, philosophers, and Africans themselves.

British and African Literature in Transnational Context Cover

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British and African Literature in Transnational Context

Simon Lewis

African identities have been written and rewritten in both British and African literature for decades. These revisions have opened up new formulations of what it really means to be British or African.

By comparing texts by authors from African and British backgrounds across a wide variety of political orientations, Simon Lewis analyzes the deeper relationships between colonizer and colonized. He brings issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality into the analysis, providing new ways for cultural scholars to think about how empire and colony have impacted one another from the late eighteenth century through the decades following World War II.

In his comparisons, Lewis focuses on commonalities rather than differences. By examining the work of writers including Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, T. S. Eliot, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Zoe Wicomb, Yvette Christianse, and Chris van Wyk, he demonstrates how Britain’s former African colonies influence British culture just as much as African culture was influenced by British colonization.

Lewis brings a uniquely informed perspective to the topic, having lived in South Africa, Tanzania, and Great Britain, and having taught African literature for over a decade. The book demonstrates his expert knowledge of local cultural history from 1945 to the present, in both Africa and Britain.

The Cameroonian Novel of English Expression. An Introduction Cover

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The Cameroonian Novel of English Expression. An Introduction

An Introduction

Initially considered something of a black sheep within the Anglophone Cameroon literary genres, the Anglophone novel has gradually grown to carve out a respectable niche for itself in the Anglophone Cameroon sub-system, imposing itself in a way that makes it impossible for critics to ignore it. Now a vibrant genre, it even threatens to overtake drama and poetry, both of which have enjoyed more critical attention. This book is a study of how Anglophone Cameroon has contributed in extending the possibilities of the novel as a literary form, and of some of the established conventions necessary for a fruitful evaluation of the growing body of the Cameroonian novel in English. In this eclectic and compelling book, Ambanasom sets out to achieve three primary objectives: to introduce the reader to the extensive body of Cameroonian novels in English, to re-examine the distorting and limiting criteria upon which the critical assessment of the Cameroonian novel in English has so far been based, and to bridge the widening chasm between literary theory and actual critical practice. To achieve these objectives, Ambanasom begins by elaborating an alternative and flexible theoretical framework which he christens the 'Socio-Artistic Approach' and which, according to him, is 'concerned with both a text's thematic, moral, cultural or ideological issues, on the one hand, and its central literary analysis, on the other.' He then proceeds to use this new critical framework to examine twenty-seven major Cameroonian novels in English. There are critical voices, already emerging within the Anglophone Cameroonian literary circles, calling for rigorous teaching and practice of theory in the interpretation of literary works, setting in motion a critical discourse. Such a call is salutary, and welcome. Those university lecturers whose responsibility it is to teach theoretical courses should take this call very seriously, moving from theory to hands-on practice. This book is Ambanasom's contribution to that critical debate.

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Cinema in an Age of Terror

North Africa, Victimization, and Colonial History

Michael F. O'Riley

Cinema in an Age of Terror looks at how cinematic representations of colonial-era victimization inform our understanding of the contemporary age of terror. By examining works representing colonial history and the dynamics of spectatorship emerging from them, Michael F. O’Riley reveals how the centrality of victimization in certain cinematic representations of colonial history can help us understand how the desire to occupy the victim’s position is a dangerous and blinding drive that frequently plays into the vision of terrorism. Films such as The Battle of Algiers, Days of Glory, Caché, and recent works by Maghrebien filmmakers all exemplify, in different ways, how this focus on victimization can become a problematic perspective—one in fact seeking to occupy ideological territory. Their return of colonial history to our contemporary context, although frequently problematic, enables us to see how victimization is very much about territory—cultural, spatial, and ideological—and how resistance to new forms of imperialist warfare and terror today must be located outside these haunting images from colonial history. Although such images of victimization ultimately only return as spectacular acts that draw our attention away from the cyclical contest over territory that they embody, those images nonetheless have the last word. Michael F. O’Riley is an associate professor of French and Italian at Colorado College. He is the author of Francophone Culture and the Postcolonial Fascination with Ethnic Crimes and Colonial Aura and Postcolonial Haunting and Victimization: Assia Djebar’s New Novels.

Contemporary Francophone African Writers and the Burden of Commitment Cover

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Contemporary Francophone African Writers and the Burden of Commitment

Fifty years after most francophone African countries gained independence, the concept of "engagement" is undergoing a change in both terminology and practice as contemporary francophone African writers expand their forms of commitment to include aesthetics, in addition to politics, and to broaden their context to that of world literature. Cazenave and Célérier offer both an overview of this transition and an analysis of the literature of these writers.

The Contemporáneos Group Cover

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The Contemporáneos Group

Rewriting Mexico in the Thirties and Forties

By Salvador A. Oropesa

In the years following the Mexican Revolution, a nationalist and masculinist image of Mexico emerged through the novels of the Revolution, the murals of Diego Rivera, and the movies of Golden Age cinema. Challenging this image were the Contemporáneos, a group of writers whose status as outsiders (sophisticated urbanites, gay men, women) gave them not just a different perspective, but a different gaze, a new way of viewing the diverse Mexicos that exist within Mexican society. In this book, Salvador Oropesa offers original readings of the works of five Contemporáneos—Salvador Novo, Xavier Villaurrutia, Agustín Lazo, Guadalupe Marín, and Jorge Cuesta—and their efforts to create a Mexican literature that was international, attuned to the realities of modern Mexico, and flexible enough to speak to the masses as well as the elites. Oropesa discusses Novo and Villaurrutia in relation to neo-baroque literature and satiric poetry, showing how these inherently subversive genres provided the means of expressing difference and otherness that they needed as gay men. He explores the theatrical works of Lazo, Villaurrutia’s partner, who offered new representations of the closet and of Mexican history from an emerging middle-class viewpoint. Oropesa also looks at women’s participation in the Contemporáneos through Guadalupe Marín, the sometime wife of Diego Rivera and Jorge Cuesta, whose novels present women’s struggles to have a view and a voice of their own. He concludes the book with Novo’s self-transformation from intellectual into celebrity, which fulfilled the Contemporáneos’ desire to merge high and popular culture and create a space where those on the margins could move to the center.

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Critical Perspectives on Cameroon Writing

This landmark volume brings together a very rich harvest of forty critical essays on Cameroon literature by Cameroon literary scholars. The book is the result of the Second Conference on Cameroon Literature which took place at the University of Buea in 1994. The Buea conference was motivated by a determination to look at Cameroon literature straight into its face and criticize it using literary criteria of the strictest kind. Gone were the times when the criticism was complacent because it was believed that a nascent literature could easily be stifled by application of rather strict cannons of literary criticism. Both writers and critics had a lot to say. Subjects dealt with ranged from general topics on literature, survival and national identity, through specialized articles on prose, poetry, drama, translation, language, folklore, childrenís literature, Journalism and politics. It is the hope of the volume editors that the publication of these papers will instigate the kind of actions that were recommended and that the prolific nature of Cameroon literature will equally give rise to a prolific and robust criticism.

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Dance of Life

The Novels of Zakes Mda in Post-apartheid South Africa

Gail Fincham

Detective Fiction and The African Scene Cover

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Detective Fiction and The African Scene

From The Whodunit? To The Whydunit?

From its very inception, detective fiction has enjoyed a great popularity among the young and the old, the learned and the not so learned. By some unfortunate stroke of irony, its respect has not kept pace with its enormous popularity. For over half a century now, it has remained the bane of creative writing. In strict intellectual circles, it is very rare to find people talk defensively and interestingly about the genre. Yet Asong has chosen to do just that. He has stoutly defended the weak by putting up a good case for its continued existence. He has also shown how irresistible key elements of the genre are to even the best respected novelists. Finally he has demonstrated for the first time, how the genre has been domesticated by African writers of very great repute such as Ngugi, Sembene and Lessing. That he has been able to prove that these writers have used techniques of detective fiction is a significant broadening of the horizons for appreciating creative writing in Africa.

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