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Notes 1. Introduction 1. I use ‘‘African literature,’’ in the singular, when I refer to the field, but ‘‘African literatures,’’ in the plural, when I refer to the study of various literary traditions from Africa. 2. This speech was subsequently published with the title ‘‘Theory, Literature, and Moral Considerations’’: ‘‘For rather than eliding African or black difference from its economy of debate, modernity—and hence modern criticism—have tended to foreground the continent’s character and location as the site of radical alterity. Modern criticism may have sought to suppress difference within its imagined Europe, but it anchored itself on the presence of the Other. While modernity was premised on its invocation of universal reason, this rationality was srtuctured by counterpoints located elsewhere’’ (11). 3. As Adele King in Rereading Camara Laye shows, this novel was loved by some, primarily Europeans, for its anthropological and ethnographical aspects and critiqued by others, primarily Africans, for its lack of reflection on the colonial situation . Despite this diversity of response both groups seem to valorize the text as document , either cultural or political. 4. Ato Quayson, in his important book Calibrations: Reading for the Social, undoes this trend by proposing to rethink the relationship between the literary and the social in a multifaceted and multidirectional dialectical fashion rather than in a straightforward representational and binary mode. By marrying together trauma theory and Marxist theory, he proposes that the dialectical relationship between literary works and reality is neither unidirectional (from reality to art) nor clear, suggesting that ‘‘the representational surface whether whole or fragmented, always generates the anxiety that it will produce something else. The something else might be an excess, a distortion, a dangerous supplement, or even a complete overthrow of how reality is normally felt and experienced’’ (xxiii). While I admire this book greatly and consider it an important intervention in scholarship on African literatures , I have two reservations as to its goals. I do not share in its enlightenment project of ‘‘using the literary as a means toward social enlightenment’’ and I strongly disagree with its designation of literature as ‘‘a transitional object-process, a representational oasis to which we constantly return as we negotiate our alienation from reality ’’ (xv, xxv). While I do think that the literary reveals ruptures and points of disintegration within our social and political discourses, I do not think that these PAGE 193 193 ................. 17176$ NOTE 01-15-09 14:45:57 PS 194 Notes to pages 2–4 ruptures necessarily lead us to enlightenment, that is higher understanding and progress . Rather, they may reveal the irreconcilable divergences between the social and the literary. And while I agree that the turn to literature may imply a withdrawal from the world as reality, or rather a suspension of it, I do not see the literary as an ‘‘oasis,’’ if this word is meant here as a safety zone, or a place of escape and comfort. On the contrary, the texts I read in this work radically shatter our comfort zones in thought and in language and show how dangerous the story can be. 5. See African Novels and the Question of Orality, where Julien critiques among others Claude Lévi-Strauss, Paul Zumthor, the griot Mamadou Kouyaté, and Léopold Sédar Senghor highlighting that the notion of a privileged orality has been proposed by them all. 6. This notion of catastrophe as temporality is deeply indebted to the thought of Maurice Blanchot. I am unable to cite all the various articulations of the affirmative dimension of the turn in thought and in language throughout his work; however , one of the most significant glances on this thought is offered to us in The Infinite Conversation through a reading of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘‘eternal return of the same’’ as the very possibility of repetition that undoes the return to the same as identity. Blanchot argues that the same can only be affirmed in repetition, but in order for repetition to occur there must be deferral and interruption. There must be a turn in language and in thought that would allow the repetition to take place: ‘‘The deferral therefore does not mark the waiting for an opportune moment that would be historically right; it marks the untimeliness of every moment since the return is already detour—or better: since we can only affirm the return as detour, making affirmation what turns away from affirming, and making of the detour what hollows out the affirmation and, in this hollowing out...


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