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ALT 30 Reflections & Retrospectives in African Literature Today

ALT 30 Reflections & Retrospectives in African Literature Today

Guest Editor Chimalum Nwankwo
Editor Ernest N. Emenyonu
Assistant Editor Patricia T. Emenyonu
Jane Bryce
Maureen N. Eke
Stephanie Newell
Charles E. Nnolim
Ato Quayson
Kwawisi Tekpetey
Iniobong I. Uko
Reviews Editor James Gibbs
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    ALT 30 Reflections & Retrospectives in African Literature Today
    Book Description:

    This special issue of ‘African Literature Today’ is devoted to some of the pioneer voices of African fiction in the twentieth century: Bessie Head, Cyprian Ekwensi, Dennis Brutus, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Flora Nwapa, Ousmane Sembene and Zulu Sofola. The contributors explore the development of these influential writers and their impact on the continent and beyond, through a study of their writing, sources and influences. Some also focus on case studies of specific works which are particularly important in the creative development of the author. The contributions of these writers to the growth and development of modern African Literature are highlighted. These are also writers whose works, in the words of Chimalum Nwankwo in his Introduction 'have defined for their time a deep engagement and commitment with the pulse of the people...' Ernest Emenyonu is Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Michigan-Flint, USA; the editorial board is composed of scholars from US, UK and African universities; Chimalum Nwankwo [Guest Editor] Former Chair of the Department of English, North Carolina A & T State University, Greensboro, USA, and Professor of English and World Literatures, is currently on sabbatical at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. Nigeria: HEBN.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-048-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)

    • Reflections & Retrospectives
      (pp. 1-7)

      Postal services all over the world are adept at selecting with uncanny acuity all kinds of iconic images, iconic moments, iconic significations for their mailing stamps. Those, sometimes cryptic, patriotic representations endure as part of either national imaginaries, or indelible and ineluctable and incandescent representations of the consciousness of the people. The words which follow from Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, down the unfurling road of world history, will echo and speak on to all hearts like one of those innumerable and collectible special stamps as long as the tradition of storytelling, in all forms remain with human societies…...


    • Gender Politics, Home & Nation in Zulu Sofola’s King Emene: Tragedy of a Rebellion
      (pp. 8-31)

      As a pioneer woman playwright in Nigeria, Zulu (short for Nwazulu) Sofola used her plays as platforms to address a variety of issues, including gender identity politics, culture, community, and nation as early as the 1960s.¹ Despite her position as the first published woman playwright in Nigeria, her work has been ignored, lacking the critical attention which the works of some of her contemporaries – Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, and J.P. Clark – have received. Her critics condemn her for being too rooted in the traditions of her people. One critic indicates that her plays have been described as showing...

    • The Militant Writer in Sembène’s Early Fiction: From Le Docker noir to L’Harmattan
      (pp. 32-61)

      One of the most ardently discussed questions among writers and critics of modern African literature centered on the choice between artistic commitment and what Claude Wauthier called the ‘Ebony Tower’.¹ The artist was called upon to rediscover the social and political role that he played in traditional Africa. In this view, it was deemed that he should assume responsibility for his people and that his work should reflect their aspirations. Thus, his work must not only describe the oppressive state in which his people find themselves but also encourage them to revolt against their untenable conditions. Besides, his work of...

    • Psychological Violence in Bessie Head’s Maru & A Question of Power
      (pp. 62-85)

      Bessie Head is a South African writer who has written several novels and short stories. Her works helped to expose the dehumanization and inhuman treatments meted on the non-white South Africans in the era of apartheid. The apartheid policy and racism of the South African government at the time made life unbearable for the non-whites who were its victims, and these dehumanized people found it difficult to accept the white oppression. The regime also offered great challenges to South African writers who were not able to exercise their mental and emotional thoughts as much as they would want. However, Bessie...

    • Constructing the Destructive City: Representations of Lagos in Cyprian Ekwensi’s People of the City
      (pp. 86-97)

      The late Cyprian Ekwensi is an author whose oeuvre cannot easily be categorised in any single genre. Situating his works in various regions of Nigeria and writing for a readership that transcends age, the most comprehensive way to describe Ekwensi is as a Nigerian author in both his nationality and the scope of his literature. The gamut of his works covers the entire nation, through an assortment of protagonists, settings and cultures. The characters range from Fulani cattlemen to Lagos prostitutes and his literary works traverse the nation, guiding the reader through the vast landscapes of Nigeria. Encountering different cultures,...

    • History, Progress & Prospects in the Development of African Literature: A Tribute to Dennis Brutus
      (pp. 98-107)

      In 1975, the year the African Literature Association (ALA) was founded and held its inaugural conference at the Austin campus of the University of Texas, Dennis Brutus was elected its first chair. That first beginning is of interest to me in the present enterprise for a number of reasons. The theme of that conference was simply contemporary black South African literature. Apparently, this is a far cry from what we had in 2011 when this paper was first conceived, the conference theme was: African literature, visual arts, and film in local and transnational spaces. The broad spectrum of the field...

    • Dispelling the Myth of the ‘Silent Woman’: The Nigerian Igbo Woman in Flora Nwapa’s Efuru (1966)
      (pp. 108-121)

      Flora Nwapa’s works mark the genesis of African women’s novels. Her novel Efuru (1966) was foundational in expressing the emerging female voice in African Literature. As such, Nwapa’s pioneering representation of female characters paved the way for reimaging women in industrious, independent and self-determined roles, a contrast from former depictions of inferior, subjugated and objectified women in African male writings such as the work of Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Elechi Amadi. This paper will analyse the genesis of Nigerian Igbo women’s writings in the works of Flora Nwapa’s Efuru (1966), a foundational novel in the African and Igbo literary...

    • Interrogating Dichotomies, Reconstructing Emancipation: Bessie Head’s Vision on Gender Issues
      (pp. 122-137)

      The compilers of Bessie Head: A Bibliography note that literary critics have summed up Head’s authorial vision as ‘concern for women’ and ‘an inspiration to women writers of Africa’ (Mackenzie and Woeber 1992: 1). This summary presents Head as the voice of women. Several scholars have interpreted her works from a feminist perspective (Flewellen 1985, Barzin 1989, Stratton 1994). But Head disclaims feminism. In a posthumous publication, A Woman Alone: Autobiographical Writings, she argues that; ‘My femaleness was never a problem to me, not now, not in our age – I do not have to be a feminist. The world...

    • Es’kia Mphahlele’s Enduring Truth in Down Second Avenue
      (pp. 138-161)

      In October 2008, Es’kia Mphahlele aka Ezekiel Mphahlele, the elder statesman of South African literature and African letters, died in his home town of Lebowakgomo, in the province of Limpopo. He had returned to South Africa in 1977 after 20 years in exile which took him to various African countries. The African world Mphahlele found when he left South Africa for a self-imposed exile in 1957 was in transition. Most African countries, including Nigeria, were gearing up for independence and there was a lot of ‘constructing’ going on. The African world today is no different. There seems to be another...

    • A Tribute to Cyprian O.D. Ekwensi (26 SEPTEMBER 1921 – 4 NOVEMBER 2007): The Writer, the Man & His Era
      (pp. 162-167)

      When Cyprian O. D. Ekwensi quietly passed into eternity on Sunday 4 November 2007, Nigeria, Africa and indeed the whole literary world lost a most endowed and gifted artist. Cyprian Ekwensi was one of a kind – versatile, dexterous, humorous, kind-hearted but firm and principled, affable and charitable, but strict in his ways and rarely ostentatious. He had no need to be. His death at 86 must have surprised him at the critical point of the rite of passage. Longevity is a known virtue in his lineage. He hoped he would equal or surpass his late mother’s age of 101,...


    • Jack Mapanje. And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night.
      (pp. 168-172)
    • Wilson Katiyo. Tsiga
      (pp. 172-174)
    • Bernth Lindfors (ed.). The Dennis Brutus Tapes: Essays at Autobiography
      (pp. 175-176)
    • Jane Katjavivi. Undisciplined Heart Sarah Ladipo Manyika. In Dependence
      (pp. 177-184)
    • Anne V. Adams (ed.). Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70: A Reader in African Cultural Studies
      (pp. 185-187)
    • Chinua Achebe. There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra
      (pp. 187-198)
      Ernest E. Emenyonu
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)