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Literature > African Literature

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Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics Cover

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Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

Akin Adesokan

What happens when social and political processes such as globalization shape cultural production? Drawing on a range of writers and filmmakers from Africa and elsewhere, Akin Adesokan explores the forces at work in the production and circulation of culture in a globalized world. He tackles problems such as artistic representation in the era of decolonization, the uneven development of aesthetics across the world, and the impact of location and commodity culture on genres, with a distinctive approach that exposes the global processes transforming cultural forms.

Postcolonial Francophone Autobiographies Cover

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Postcolonial Francophone Autobiographies

From Africa to the Antilles

Edgard Sankara

Bringing a comparative perspective to the study of autobiography, Edgard Sankara considers a cross-section of postcolonial francophone writing from Africa and the Caribbean in order to examine and compare for the first time their transnational reception. Sankara not only compares the ways in which a wide selection of autobiographies were received locally (as well as in France) but also juxtaposes reception by the colonized and the colonizer to show how different meanings were assigned to the works after publication.

Sankara’s geographical and cultural coverage of Africa and its diaspora is rich, with separate chapters devoted to the autobiographies of Hampâté Bâ, Valentin Mudimbé, Kesso Barry, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, and Maryse Condé. The author combines close reading, reception study, and postcolonial theory to present an insightful survey of the literary connections among these autobiographers as well as a useful point of departure for further exploration of the genre itself, of the role of reception studies in postcolonial criticism, and of the stance that postcolonial francophone writers choose to take regarding their communities of origin.

Modern Language Initiative

Redrawing French Empire Comics Cover

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Redrawing French Empire Comics

Redrawing French Empire in Comics by Mark McKinney investigates how comics have represented the colonization and liberation of Algeria and Indochina. It focuses on the conquest and colonization of Algeria (from 1830), the French war in Indochina (1946–1954), and the Algerian War (1954–1962). Imperialism and colonialism already featured prominently in nineteenth-century French-language comics and cartoons by Töpffer, Cham, and Petit. As society has evolved, so has the popular representation of those historical forces. French torture of Algerians during the Algerian War, once taboo, now features prominently in comics, especially since 2000, when debate on the subject was reignited in the media and the courts. The increasingly explicit and spectacular treatment in comics of the more violent and lurid aspects of colonial history and ideology is partly due to the post-1968 growth of an adult comics production and market. For example, the appearance of erotic and exotic, feminized images of Indochina in French comics in the 1980s indicated that colonial nostalgia for French Indochina had become fashionable in popular culture. Redrawing French Empire in Comics shows how contemporary cartoonists such as Alagbé, Baloup, Boudjellal, Ferrandez, and Sfar have staked out different, sometimes conflicting, positions on French colonial history.

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Research in African Literatures

Vol. 30 (1999) through current issue

Research in African Literatures, the premier journal of African literary studies worldwide, serves as a stimulating vehicle in English for research on the oral and written literatures of Africa. Reviews of current scholarly books are included in every number, and a forum offers readers the opportunity to respond to issues raised in articles and book reviews

Return to the Kingdom of Childhood Cover

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Return to the Kingdom of Childhood

Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude

Return to the Kingdom of Childhood: Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude examines the philosophy of Negritude through an innovative analysis of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s oeuvre. In the first book-length study of Senghorian philosophy, Cheikh Thiam argues that Senghor’s work expresses an Afri-centered conception of the human while simultaneously offering a critique of the Western universalization of “man.” Senghor’s corrective, descriptive, and prescriptive theory of humanness is developed through a conception of race as a cultural manifestation of being. Thiam contends that Senghor’s conception of race entails an innovative Afri-centered epistemology and ontology. For Senghor, races are the effects of particular groups’ relations to the world. The so-called “Negroes,” for example, are determined by their epistemology based on their fluid understanding of the ontological manifestations of being. The examination of this ontology and its ensuing epistemology, which is constitutive of the foundation of Senghor’s entire oeuvre, indicates that Negritude is a postcolonial philosophy that stands on its own. The hermeneutics of Senghor’s race theory show that the Senegalese thinker’s pioneering postcolonial philosophy remains relevant in the postcolonial era. In fact, it questions and expands the works of major contemporary African-descended scholars such as Paul Gilroy, Edouard Glissant, and Molefi Asante. Thiam’s approach is thoroughly interdisciplinary, combining perspectives from philosophy, literary analysis, anthropology, and postcolonial, African, and cultural studies.

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The Sacred Door and Other Stories

Cameroon Folktales of the Beba

Makuchi

The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba offers readers a selection of folktales infused with riddles, proverbs, songs, myths, and legends, using various narrative techniques that capture the vibrancy of Beba oral traditions. Makuchi retells the stories that she heard at home when she was growing up in her native
Cameroon.
The collection of thirty-three folktales of the Beba showcases a wide variety of stories that capture the richness and complexities of an agrarian society’s oral literature and traditions. Revenge, greed, and deception are among the themes that frame the story lines in both new and familiar ways. In the title story, a poor man finds himself elevated to king. The condition for his continued success is that he not open the sacred door. This tale of temptation, similar to the story of Pandora’s box, concludes with the question, “What would you have done?”
Makuchi relates the stories her mother told her so that readers can make connections
between African and North American oral narrative traditions. These tales reinforce the commonalities of our human experiences without discounting our differences.



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Shaken Wisdom

Irony and Meaning in Postcolonial African Fiction

Gloria Nne Onyeoziri

In her focus on irony and meaning in postcolonial African fiction, Gloria Nne Onyeoziri refers to an internal subversion of the discourse of the wise and the powerful, a practice that has played multiple roles in the circulation of knowledge, authority, and opinion within African communities; in the interpretation of colonial and postcolonial experience; and in the ongoing resistance to tyrannies in African societies. But irony is always reversible and may be used to question the oppressed as well as the oppressor, shaking all presumptions of wisdom. Although the author cites numerous African writers, she selects six works by Chinua Achebe, Ahmadou Kourouma, and Calixthe Beyala for her primary analysis.

Modern Language Initiative

Sounding Off Cover

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Sounding Off

Rhythm, Music, and Identity in West African and Caribbean Francophone Novels

Julie Huntington

Intrigued by "texted" sonorities—the rhythms, musics, ordinary noises, and sounds of language in narratives—Julie Huntington examines the soundscapes in contemporary Francophone novels such as Ousmane Sembene's God's Bits of Wood (Senegal), and Patrick Chamoiseau's Solibo Magnificent (Martinique). Through an ethnomusicological perspective, Huntington argues in Sounding Off that the range of sounds —footsteps, heartbeats, drumbeats—represented in West African and Caribbean works provides a rhythmic polyphony that creates spaces for configuring social and cultural identities.

Huntington’s analysis shows how these writers and others challenge the aesthetic and political conventions that privilege written texts over orality and invite readers-listeners to participate in critical dialogues—to sound off, as it were, in local and global communities.

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Transnational Discourses on Class, Gender, and Cultural Identity

by Irene Marques

This exploration of class, feminism, and cultural identity (including issues of race, nation, colonialism, and economic imperialism) focuses on the work of four writers: the Mozambican Mia Couto, the Portuguese José Saramago, the Brazilian Clarice Lispector and the South African J. M. Coetzee. In the first section, the author discusses the political aspects of Couto’s collection of short stories Contos do nascer da terra (Stories of the Birth of the Land) and Saramago’s novel O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis). The second section explores similar themes in Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K and Lispector’s A hora da estrela (The Hour of the Star). Marques argues that these four writers are political in the sense that they bring to the forefront issues pertaining to the power of literature to represent, misrepresent, and debate matter related to different subaltern subjects: the postcolonial subject, the poor subject (the "poor other"), and the female subject. She also discusses the "ahuman other" in the context of the subjectivity of the natural world, the dead, and the unborn, and shows how these aspects are present in all the different societies addressed and point to the mystical dimension that permeates most societies. With regard to Couto's work, this "ahuman other" is approached mostly through a discussion of the holistic, animist values and epistemologies that inform and guide Mozambican traditional societies, while in further analyses the notion is approached via discussions on phenomenology, elementality, and divinity following the philosophies of Lévinas and Irigaray and mystical consciousness in Zen Buddhism and the psychology of Jung.

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Trickster and Hero

Two Characters in the Oral and Written Traditions of the World

Harold Scheub

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