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ALT 32 Politics & Social Justice: African Literature Today

ALT 32 Politics & Social Justice: African Literature Today

Editor: Ernest N. Emenyonu
Assistant Editor: Patricia T. Emenyonu
Jane Bryce
Maureen N. Eke
Stephanie Newell
Charles E. Nnolim
Chimalum Nwankwo
Ato Quayson
Kwawisi Tekpetey
Iniobong I. Uko
Reviews Editor: James Gibbs
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    ALT 32 Politics & Social Justice: African Literature Today
    Book Description:

    In 1965, Chinua Achebe, in his classic essay "The Novelist as Teacher", declared that the "African past - with all its imperfections - was not one long night of savagery from which the early Europeans acting on God's behalf, delivered them." That assertion included a still reverberating sentiment shared by many of the first generation of African writers that it is possible to reclaim that distorted past creatively in order to show and understand "where and when the rain started beating Africa". Many genres and forms of literary and cultural production have recalled and recorded and reconfigured that past - many projecting a new confident African future defined by self-determination. The spectrum of that complex engagement, which encompasses critical issues in politics and social justice, provides the basis of this volume, which concludes with tributes to the life and works of Kofi Awoonor. Articles on: Binyavanga Wainaina + Ben Okri & Nationhood + J.M. Coetzee & the Philosophy of Justice + Isidore Okpewho & "Manhood" + Ngugi's Matigari & the Postcolonial Nation + Yambo Ouologuem's Bound to Violence + Politics & Women in Irene Salami's More Than Dancing + Ayi Kwei Armah's The Resolutionaries + Victor Epie 'Ngome's What God Has Put Asunder 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

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-387-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Dedication to James Gibbs
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Ernest N. Emenyonu
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. EDITORIAL ARTICLE Fiction & Socio-Political Realities in Africa: What Else Can Literature Do?
    (pp. 1-6)

    Chinua Achebe once said something to the effect that no country has ever handed its government to writers. It was not so much a statement about the administrative capabilities or lack thereof, of writers in government, as of the true significance of creative imagination in the shaping of human destiny at a point in time. ‘The pen’ they say, ‘is mightier than the sword’. But whereas soldiers and armed forces overthrow civilian governments and impose dictatorships and totalitarian regimes across the globe, no association of writers by whatever name, has ever carried out a coup d’état to topple a country’s...


    • The Novel as an Oral Narrative Performance: The Delegitimization of the Postcolonial Nation in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Matigari Ma Njirũũngi
      (pp. 7-19)

      Matigari Ma Njirũũngi(1986) (Matigari, 1989), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s second novel in Gĩkũyũ, is the most disparaged of his works. Critics like Nkosi (1995: 197-206) and Gurnah (1991: 169-72) have raised questions about the identity of the novel, its place in the changing canon of African literature and its aesthetic strategy. Ogude accuses Ngũgĩ of abandoning the depiction of ‘moral complexity’ of his earlier novels in favour of what the scholar dismisses as ‘simple minded … allegorising’ (1991: 13-14) . How can we account for this critical hostility towards the novel?

      In this article, we argue that withMatigari Ma...

    • Abiku in Ben Okri’s Imagination of Nationhood: A Metaphorical Interpretation of Colonial-Postcolonial Politics
      (pp. 20-32)

      Literature, like other semiotic regimes such as sculpture, painting photography and film, can and has been used to present individual and group experiences. Artists have utilized all of the modes mentioned above, with varying degrees of success, to engage with such social and political issues as colonialism, politics, religion, corruption and underdevelopment. Thus, the role of art, besides its traditional functions of entertainment and education, includes the provision of a critique of the life and experiences of participants involved in social interaction. The postcolonial African literary text has been used to provide an appraisal of ideology, identity, power relations and...

    • Refracting the Political: Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place
      (pp. 33-46)

      As Kenya’s best-known writer of his generation, Binyavanga Wainaina is recognized not only for his literary output, but also for his theoretical approach to current African writing. Enhanced by his role as founding editor ofKwani?, the literary journal, Wainaina’s voice as pioneer of a new literary movement has been cultivated through his numerous interviews and articles published online. His internationally acclaimed satirical article ‘How to Write About Africa’ (2005) in particular, exemplifies not just Wainaina’s literary stature, but his movement away from the prevailing narratives concerning Africa.¹ While Wainaina’s focus is on stereotypical Western representations of the continent, his...

    • Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Resolutionaries: Exoteric Fiction, the Common People & Social Change in Post-Colonial Africa – A Critical Review
      (pp. 47-57)

      The Resolutionaries(2013) is Armah’s eighth novel. The word ‘resolutionary’ is his neologism and refers to a group of people who resolve to do things which always remain frozen as resolutions. Specifically, the word signifies Africa’s political leadership and intellectuals who make extensive and serious discussions of subjects in speeches or writings without translating them into realities. They are indefatigable talkers, not doers – innovators. Copycatting is their expertise, sad to say; they are seriously lacking in creativity.

      In Armah’s highly provocative autobiographical novel –Why Are We So Blest?(1972) – Solo Ankonam, a translator, an artist and Armah’s...

    • In Quest of Social Justice: Politics & Women’s Participation in Irene Isoken Salami’s More than Dancing
      (pp. 58-76)

      Nona Odaro, presidential candidate of United People’s Liberation Party (UPLP) in Irene Salami’s 2003 playMore than Dancing (MTD)summarizes the problem the author tackles in this play. She states:

      The political playing field is uneven and not conducive to women’s participation. Women who enter politics find the political, cultural and social environment often unfriendly and even hostile to them. The low level of women’s representation in the decision making arm of the government is a violation of their fundamental democratic rights and as such of their basic human rights…. (87)

      The play opens with Madam Bisi Adigun, women’s leader...

    • Breaking the Laws in J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus – Philosophy & the Notion of Justice
      (pp. 77-90)

      Through their free indirect discourse and dialogic nature,¹ many of J. M. Coetzee’s novels ask explicit and literal questions of the reader, as, for example, the question put to us of David Lurie inDisgrace(1999): after his daughter is raped and David tries to imagine her experience, the narrator asks, ‘does he have it in him to be the woman?’ (160). In that they ask such questions, Coetzee’s novels require engagement with the debate that such questioning engenders, and while such dialogism might prepare the way for some sort of activist change, most of Coetzee’s characters remain only ever...

    • The Rhetoric & Caricature of Social Justice in Post-1960 Africa: A Logical Positivist Reading of Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo’s Matigari
      (pp. 91-103)

      Most literary pundits agree that a literary work is not createdex nihilo. In other words, it is a reflection of a particular society in space and time. The writer’s immediate socio-political context is regarded as the material cause of the text since the raw material for his literary productivity comes from his society. Diana Laurenson and Alan Swingewood, inThe Sociology of Literature, write: ‘Literature, because it delineates man’s anxieties, hopes, and aspirations, is perhaps one of the most effective sociological barometers of the human response to social forces’ (1971: 17).

      This mimetic capacity of literature is the source...

    • ‘Manhood’ in Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty: Authenticity or Accountability?
      (pp. 104-119)

      Isidore Okpewho’s 1976 novelThe Last Dutytakes place in a country called Zonda, in the town of Urukpe, a border zone between the Igabo peoples and the Simba peoples. The two ethnic groups formerly lived at peace, to the point of cohabiting the town and even intermarrying. However, civil war has now driven out the Simbians, and the town is occupied by federal troops. Military commander for the past two years, Brigade Major Ali S. Idris takes his duties seriously and seeks not only to safeguard the town from external attack but also to establish, as much as possible,...


    • Kofi Awoonor: In Retrospect
      (pp. 121-134)

      Rediscovery and Other Poems, Kofi Awoonor’s first collection of poems, was published in 1964 by Mbari Press in Ibadan, Nigeria. By a significant coincidence,The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964–2013, is being released in 2014 by University of Nebraska Press, the first publication in the African Poetry Book Series. In many ways, the new collection offers a unique opportunity for critical retrospection, a backward glance over a half century of Awoonor’s distinguished career as a Guardian of the Sacred Word.

      The collection opens with poems that point us in two directions, to a reconciled past and...

    • Kofi Awoonor: Poem for a Mentor & Friend
      (pp. 135-136)
    • Looking Death in the Eye: The Human Condition, Morbidity & Mortality in Kofi Awoonor’s Poetry
      (pp. 137-150)

      Kofi Awoonor’s fascination with the Anlo-Ewe dirge as a poetic form has been established in various critiques of his work. What has invariably been highlighted, is his sometimes liberal borrowing from the Anlo-Ewe poet-cantor Vinoko Akpalu, whose fatalistic commentaries on his personal life resonate loudly in Awoonor’s poetry. However, not much attention has been focused on Awoonor’s own views regarding the human condition, morbidity and mortality. This article discusses Awoonor’s attitude to death in his poetry, particularly as it relates to the poet’s acceptance of the inevitability, anticipation and, sometimes, defiance of death. It also highlights Awoonor’s evolution as a...

    • Eulogy for an Artist, a Statesman, a Teacher & Friend: Kofi Awoonor
      (pp. 151-157)

      Few people change and shape our lives. I was fortunate that one of those rare individuals for me was Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor. And the changes started unbeknownst to me years before I met the man. As I came to know him, I came to know a grand affecting and effecting presence, a grand epicurean stoic.

      The first time I read a poem by Awoonor was in the summer of 1964 as I was preparing to go off to Nigeria for two years; it was a poem published in the Beier/Moore Penguin anthology in 1963. For me it was much like...

    • Post-Colonial Trauma & the Poetics of Remembering in the Novels of Kofi Awoonor
      (pp. 158-172)

      To talk about Kofi Awoonor is to try to re-member a poet, an essayist, a novelist, a political scientist, a diplomat, and a lot more. In the introduction to his monumental study of African culture and literature,The Breast of the Earth(1975), Awoonor describes himself as ‘a cultural nationalist, teacher, artist and above all, an African’ (xi). All these were hats he wore proudly over a lifetime of vigorous dialogic engagements with post-colonial Africa’s tortured history, or what, elsewhere in his works, he refers to as the African predicament. Awoonor saw no contradiction in embracing these multiple labels; rather,...

    • Song for Nyidevu
      (pp. 173-173)

    • Chima Anyadike and Kehinde A. Ayoola, eds, Blazing the Path: Fifty Years of Things Fall Apart Ibadan: HEBN Publishers, 2012. Pbk. 329 pp. £24.95, available from African Books Collective. ISBN 978 978 081 184 6
      (pp. 174-178)
    • Nana Ayebia Clarke and James Currey (eds), Chinua Achebe: Tributes and Reflections Banbury: Ayebia, 2014, 340 pp., £20.00 ISBN 978-0-9569307-6-7
      (pp. 178-180)
    • François Guiyoba and Pierre Halen (eds) L’Impact des missions chrétiennes sur la constitution des champs littéraires locaux en Afrique, Etudes littéraires africaines (ELA) 35, 2013, 223 pp. ISSN 0769-4563.
      (pp. 180-182)
    • Astrid Van Weyenberg. The Politics of Adaptation – Contemporary African Drama and Greek Tragedy Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2013, li + 215 pp., €56/ US$76, hbk ISBN: 978-90-420-3700-7, E-Book: 978-94-012-0957-1
      (pp. 182-184)
    • Taona D. Chiveneko, The Hangman’s Replacement Book 1: Sprout of Disruption Chiveneko Publishing Inc, 2013, 489 pp., $29.00 ISBN-13: 978-1482767681, available as an e-book
      (pp. 185-188)
    • Daniel O. Fagunwa. Forest of a Thousand Daemons, translated by Wole Soyinka, illustrated by Bruce Onabrakpeya San Francisco: City Lights Publisher, 2013, 140 pp, $14.95 ISBN 9780872866300
      (pp. 188-190)
    • Caroline Davies. Creating Postcolonial Literature: African Writers & British Publishers Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 255 pp. hb. £50 ISBN 978-0-230-36936-8; ebook ISBNs: 9781137328380 PDF, 9781137246363 EPUB
      (pp. 190-194)
    • Wumi Raji. Contemporary Literature of Africa: Tijan M. Sallah & Literary Works of The Gambia New York: Cambria Press, 2014, 282 pp., $ 109.99, hb ISBN 9781604978674
      (pp. 194-197)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 198-198)