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  • Teaching African Literature Today: African Literature Today 29
  • Ode Ogede
Teaching African Literature Today: African Literature Today 29 ED. Ernest Emenyonu Rochester, NY: James Currey, 2011. xvi + 154 pp. ISBN 978-1-84701-511-2 paper.


When people talk of the premier journals of African literary studies, they are apt to invoke, sooner or later, the name of African Literature Today. It was founded in 1968 and edited by eminent scholar Eldred Durosimi Jones until 2001, with assistance for some of the volumes from his wife Marjorie Jones and his former colleague Eustace Palmer, from their base at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. The journal consistently has drawn its contributors from six continents and published simultaneously both in the United Kingdom (first by Heinemann Educational Books and then James Currey Publishers) and in the United States (successively by Africana Publishers, then Africa World Press, and now Boydell and Brewer, whose publications are distributed by the University of Rochester Press). African Literature Today has, undoubtedly, throughout its long life, been the journal of African literature that is most global in its outlook—an impression further solidified with the recent addition to the roster of its publishers of Heinemann Educational Books of Nigeria. The pivotal role that this journal has played in the development of African literature and its criticism is underscored by the fact that many of those who have now established themselves as the foremost authorities in the field first cut their publishing teeth there. It is gratifying to note that, now into the sixth volume in the eleventh year of the tenure of the new editor Ernest Emenyonu, this high-powered journal has held up pretty well. Not only does it continue to honor its pledge to be a forum for discovering new talents, but, with this latest issue, African Literature Today expands the territory of African literature by covering the subject of current instructional strategies.

There is no one pedagogical theory that the contributors share, one reason for which is that there are too many to choose from. For example, there is a vigorously argued standout essay by Chimalum Nwankwo that provides new and genuinely stimulating insight into the literary masterpieces of the great Nigerian writers, Booker Prize winner Chinua Achebe and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, alerting readers to the beguiling cultural underpinnings essential to an understanding of African literature in general; but several essays rest content with reporting on how modern media technologies, such as the Internet and film, have revolutionized the teaching of African literature. There are also accounts of how some texts (Ben [End Page 126] Okri's The Famished Road, Syl Cheney-Coker's The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar, Ahmadou Kourouma's Les Soliel des independences, Chamoiseau's Texaco, Patrice Nganang's Temps de chien, Mercedes Fouda's Je parle camerounais, Gabriel Fonkou's Moi Taximan, and Doris Lessing's short story "The Antheap") actually work in the classroom. Two articles give overviews of the stages and perspectives in oral literature research and teaching across several Nigerian university campuses; one explores the place of theory in African literary studies, arguing with some key—if rather dated—textbooks by leading theorists of the past in favor of indigenization by synthesizing Western and African aesthetic and sociological ideas; and another presents both the challenges and prospects of African literature teaching in a quintessential multicultural context such as one encounters in classrooms across colleges and universities in the United States.

As one of the longest-running and most robust journals of African literature, it is not without good reason that the appearance of every single issue of African Literature Today has marked a major publishing event; remarkable for the breadth and the miscellany of its collection, though very mixed in quality, this volume is no exception. In this regard, the book reviews editor James Gibbs also deserves commendation for his valuable service; not least for the delicacy of Lalage Brown's exhaustive and sparkling review featured in this issue, which is informed with unusual force and clarity by a rare direct acquaintance with the late Christopher Okigbo: this edition of the journal is worth the purchase for this alone, because there...


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pp. 126-127
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