Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This paper argues that genealogical ties exist between the “national-masculine” literary tradition that characterized the sexual politics of the Ibadan modernist arts journal Black Orpheus and the homosocial environments of the colonial boarding schools and university system of Nigeria. Within this flagship journal, a certain form of short story thematized social issues and forms of violence commonly associated with Western second-wave feminism and frequently siloed under the category of “women’s issues.” These included general sexual violence, abortion, and rape. The symbolic handling of these forms of violence within Black Orpheus is notable because it marks a sharp departure from similarly gendered issues within contemporaneous market literature and stands in contrast to social concerns raised by African women writers who were the male authors’ peers. Like the authors of market literatures, these texts do not engage women as rounded subjects capable of speaking their own minds. Yet unlike market literatures, these texts flatten womanhood in order to engage in performative acts of solidarity, allyship, and/or sympathy with figures of womanhood, especially—and ironically—related to issues surrounding women’s bodily autonomy. In short, these works allowed male authors to construct fictionalized women and fictionalized male voices to speak for and of them.

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