Research in African Literatures (Res Afr Literat )

Publisher: University of Texas at Austin. African and Afro-American Research Institute; University of Texas at Austin. African and Afro-American Studies and Research Center; Ohio State University; Ohio State University. College of Humanities; African Studies Association. African Literature Committee; All authors, Indiana University Press

Description

Research in African Literatures, the premier journal of African literary studies worldwide, serves as a stimulating vehicle in English for research on the oral and written literatures of Africa. Reviews of current scholarly books are included in every number, often presented as review essays, and a forum offers readers the opportunity to respond to issues raised in articles and book reviews. The journal, which is published quarterly, also provides information on African publishing as well as announcements of importance to Africanists, and frequently prints notes and queries of literary interest.

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  • Website
    Research in African Literatures website
  • Other titles
    Research in African literatures (Online), Research in African literatures
  • ISSN
    1527-2044
  • OCLC
    42388134
  • Material type
    Document, Periodical, Internet resource
  • Document type
    Internet Resource, Computer File, Journal / Magazine / Newspaper

Publisher details

Indiana University Press

  • Pre-print
    • Author can archive a pre-print version
  • Post-print
    • Author cannot archive a post-print version
  • Restrictions
    • 12 months embargo
  • Conditions
    • State pre-print is 'working paper'
    • Acknowledge future publication and journal and year of pre-print
    • On author's personal website and/or institutional repository
    • On a non-profit server
    • Publisher's version/PDF cannot be used
    • Set statement to accompany post-print (see policy)
  • Classification
    ​ yellow

Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Storytelling is essentially a communal practice transferring, across generations, cultural notions, norms, and values. However, in the study of storytelling practices in African societies, the empirical focus and analytical emphasis have been on adults and elders, in particular men, neglecting the roles of women and children. Adults and elders have been seen as producers and transmitters of cultural knowledge, whereas children have been seen chiefly as knowledge receivers. Based on ethnographic field research, this article analyzes the roles of children in storytelling events among the Oromo-speaking Guji people of Southern Ethiopia. Far from being passive knowledge receivers, the Guji children are attentive listeners and engaged narrators. They express their sentiments and opinions in gestures and words, pose questions to clarify points, make meta-communicative comments on the proper ways of narrating stories, and pass judgments on the moral messages. This article argues for a more child-centered perspective in the study of oral traditions in African societies, which recognizes their agency in the intergenerational transfer and change of storytelling traditions as well as of the cultural notions, values, and norms transpiring through them.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):135-149.
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    ABSTRACT: In this essay, I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) as a political allegory, legible within its characters’ personal relationships and historical circumstances. This allegory, I argue, refuses closure in ways that suggest an alternative both to the prevalent notion that the novel has an apolitical, purely tragic ending and to dominant narratives about the Biafran secession’s “inevitable” failure. My reading thereby intervenes in critical conversations about Half of a Yellow Sun, the Biafran state, and secession and self-determination throughout Africa.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):63-85.
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    ABSTRACT: In postcolonial discourse, religious missions are generally described as the benign mask of empire, the enemy of African cultures and freedoms. While that critique has been a necessary response to Western narratives of Africa’s salvation and to the very real role missions have played in colonial violence, it has also obscured their place within the anticolonial imagination. Drawing on the early novels and recently published autobiographical texts of Chinua Achebe and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, this essay demonstrates that while missions were surely implicated in colonialism, they have also been central to Africans’ own narratives of improvement ranging from the reformist to the radical, particularly when the horizon of improvement was decolonization. Through a focus on education and literacy, this essay examines the relationship between missions and anglophone African literature and teases out the ways in which missions, as put to work by African subjects, enabled new practices of freedom, becoming the ambiguous ally of anticolonial movements and even Marxism itself.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):1-25.
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    ABSTRACT: Literature has always inspired filmic adaptations and African literature has its films too, mainly sourced from francophone novels, some of which have been examined by Techeuyap in De l’écrit à l’écran, Anyinefa, and Mestaoui, among others. Nigerian literature, on the other hand, has inspired few adaptations, with the notable exception of Achebe’s first novel, published in 1958 and which has, over the years, inspired several adaptations—films and plays. This article will compare Achebe’s first novel with its main screen counterpart and will seek to highlight the reasons for the huge success of this televised program, revealing some of the ingredients behind the success of Nollywood films and helping to get a better understanding of their content and message.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):168-183.
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    ABSTRACT: The literary field in Africa came into emergence as a result of a collective yearning for lesser dependency on the symbolic constraints the Western center is forcing on its margins. Granted that a work sets itself up by setting up its own context, and that the African context stands out as one where oral literature is still alive in society, the manifestation of expressive forms associated with traditional literature in a novel must carry heavy weight in an interpretation of African works. For that reason, this essay will argue that, through her “smuggling” of narrative forms drawn from oral literature, Aminata Sow Fall’s fiction testifies to an oral discursivity at work in the novel. The archi-textual approach focuses on various strategies the Senegalese woman writer resorts to in order to inscribe, deep within her creative work in French, a traditional universe hitherto conveyed through oral forms of expression.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):86-102.
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    ABSTRACT: This essay examines the “dangerous” role of women’s theater, as highlighted in La Beauté de l’icône, Fatima Bourega-Gallaire’s play on the Algerian civil war of the 1990s. The play exposes the violence of the “black decade” and highlights the gendered aggressions that have scarred Algeria’s postcolonial imaginary in a radicalized economy of fear, terror, and censorship. La Beauté de l’icône is an intense enactment of another chapter in the history of the civil war—the numerous abductions and forced “disappearance” of civilians during a pathological and power-driven reign of terror initiated by armed militias and government security forces. I demonstrate how the play adds another dimension to the civil war through two concomitant perspectives—the state’s role and culpability during the war, on the one hand, and the revolutionary activism of the “mothers of the disappeared” that inscribe their voices in a disavowed history. I further analyze the intersections between state terror and maternal power by examining the role of theater in exposing human rights violations to determine whether the aggressed can be given voice and visibility in a public text. La Beauté de l’icône thereby embraces an anti-war ethic by staging the violent trajectories of the civil war and its consequences. At the same time, it advocates a politics of peace through the suffering and courage of dissident mothers who refuse to accept the disappearance of their loved ones.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):26-45.
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    ABSTRACT: This article explores the plays of Cameroonian female playwright Anne Tanyi-Tang, arguing that they make a significant contribution to anglo-phone Cameroonian drama, particularly in the representation of women and articulation of female concerns. The plays analyzed in this article reveal that, although trapped in deeply patriarchal cultures, women draw on their inner strengths and female networks to create spaces for themselves—spaces through which they attain empowerment and self-definition. Tanyi-Tang’s female characters are strikingly self-willed and independent, relying on their intellect to combat familial and social challenges. They stand in stark contrast to the stereotypical characters portrayed by male playwrights, such as Bole Butake, in whose drama women often resort to sexual favors or mischief to achieve set goals. By depicting urban women contending not only with patriarchy in all its forms, but also with postcolonial disillusionment, Tanyi-Tang infuses anglophone Cameroonian drama with a new vision, one that embraces powerful, self-actualized women and celebrates women’s achievements in the public and private spheres.
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):122-134.
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    ABSTRACT: In the heated debates about the status of postcolonial studies or the aftermath of colonialism in France and in the francophone countries, one of the less discussed topics remains the weight of the notorious colonial trinity as the core structure of the imperial power.1 Referring to this controversial subject, the French historian Jean Suret-Canale wrote, “La trinité qui préside à l’origine de l’entreprise colonial comprend l’administrateur, le militaire et le missionnaire. En marge de l’appareil officiel, ce dernier a souvent précédé les deux autres”(443) ‘the trinity that presides from the beginning of the colonial enterprise consists of the administrator, the officer, and the missionary. On the fringes of the official apparatus, the latter has often preceded the other two.’ This special issue of six essays of the review Etudes Littéraires Africaines, edited by François Guiyoba and Pierre Halen, examines closely the influence of the third element of the trinity—Christian missions—in the birth and development of francophone African literary fields. This publication is the second of only two groundbreaking studies in the comparative missionary literature in francophone Africa.2 Using Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of literary field, Guiyoba and his colleagues argue that, since they were less intertwined with the two other “official” entities of the trinity, religious organizations gained a much larger autonomy from the colonial government’s control, such freedom bolstered them to systematically assist the emergence of francophone African literary genres, “les quelques cas étudiés ici montrent que les missions et les églises ont effectivement constitué, certes parmi d’autres, des acteurs essentiels de la mise en place des champs littéraires modernes en Afrique à l’ère colonial” (20) ‘The few cases studied here show that missions and the churches have indeed been, admittedly among others, essential actors in setting up modern literary fields in colonial Africa.’ Indeed, through their nonprofit organizations, such as elementary schools, junior high schools, churches, seminaries, printing houses, publishing houses, and bookstores, Christian missions were real nurseries and places of systematic education of civil servants, priests, and future social, political, and intellectual elites, including the first generation of writers. In this educational process, however, Alphonse Moutombi asserts in his article on colonial Cameroon that the French assimilationist politics, which prescribed French as the only language to be taught in schools at the expense of African languages, seriously undermined the obvious contribution of Christian missions. Denominational schools were entirely under the missionary’s administrative supervision and yet, because they were largely subsidized by the French imperial power, they eventually fulfilled the colonial agenda and became powerful mystifying screens for the French. As a result, observes Moutombi, “[l’]école coloniale, tant publique que privée confessionnelle, constituait la pierre angulaire de tout l’édifice colonial” (50) ‘the colonial public or denominational school was the keystone of the entire colonial edifice.’ Notable early African writers, such as Ferdinand Oyono, Benjamin Matip, René Philombe, and Mongo Beti, were indeed schooled in Catholic and Protestant institutions and their writings were certainly inspired by religious themes and Christian ideologies. Such a fact should have predisposed them to enthusiastically testify to their Christian faith, or to demonstrate at least some sympathy to Christianity (57). But these writers became its fierce critics, bolstered either by an unequivocal anticlerical attitude or a more radical atheist stance in their writings, the most notable being Mongo Beti, with his famous Pauvre Christ de Bomba, which was nearly censored unofficially by the influential Catholic bishop of Yaounde, Bp. Graffin (56).3 Christian missions undoubtedly achieved a productive impact in the education of African elites and writers. Even though they justifiably triggered a rejection from the writers due to their unjust alliance with the oppressive colonial power, such association contributed to foster African francophone literary fields. This controversial alliance, according to Guiyoba and Halen, became “une façon de ‘reprendre’ le medium de la modernité” (20) ‘a way of “reclaiming” the medium of modernity’ for African literary genres. This issue certainly advances the scholarship in the missionary literature. Despite the clarity of the arguments throughout these articles, further advanced research in this direction should probably demonstrate the validity of this approach around...
    Research in African Literatures 06/2014; 45(2):185-187.
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    ABSTRACT: Edouard Glissant once described St John Perse as that “necessary” poet who “On the pathway of the world … precedes us while also ignoring us.” It could be said that Glissant himself has become that necessary “thinker” who also precedes and ignores, to use his own terminology, the “lieu incontourable,” which is invariably the point of departure for studies of the plantation Americas. This is the case arguably because of Glissant’s poetic conception of New World–space in terms of the “blue savannas of memory and imagination.” From the outset, Glissant was fascinated by the kind of dynamic imaginative renewal that could result from the trauma of deportation and displacement. Memory and imagination become powerful forces in the process of navigating the terror of the unknown (l’inconnu-absolu) for the deportee. The disruptive capacity of the unknown, which he termed the “abyss,” makes an imaginative response vital for the survival of the radically uprooted subject. New World–space then becomes habitable only because of the openness of the poetic imagination. At the end of the opening essay of Poetique de la Relation, tellingly entitled “The Open Boat,” Glissant closes with an invocation of the liberating force of the poetic impulse. “It’s that which keeps us bound to poetry … in an unknown that does not terrify. We cry the cry of poetry. Our boats are open, we navigate them for everyone” (21). The imagination’s capacity for renewal, the poetic “cry,” feeds on the productive strangeness of the unknown. “Open sailing” meant the abandonment of the stabilizing certitudes of filiation, history, and home and yielding to the positively charged menace of this new “non-world, inhabited by no ancestor.” It is worth noting that in the early book of essays L’intention poetique, originally published in 1969, he directly addressed the absolute newness of experience of the displaced African in the uncharted space of the Americas. The fugitive, the African condemned to the fateful islands, did not recognize even the taste of the night; that unknown night was less dense, more naked and it terrified him; far behind he heard the dogs but the acacias had already snatched him from the world of the hunters; and so he entered, man from vast stretches of earth into a another history in which, without him knowing, time was beginning again for him. The horrors of deportation, the shock of a new darkness, is an apocalyptic moment that can create a new, modern imaginary, “he entered another history in which time was beginning again for him.” This apocalyptic moment of poetic renewal is at the heart of Glissant’s concept of creolization, which is the product of the engendering abyss (le gouffre-matrice). The space of the Americas is, in his view, marked by the creolizing impulse, the creative void of the abyss. Each time I return to the Americas, whether to an island like Martinique, which is where I was born, or to the American continent, I am struck by the openness of this landscape. I say it is an “irrupted” landscape—it’s a word that I coined obviously—in it is irruption and rush, and eruption as well, perhaps a lot of the real and the unreal. His coining of the word “irrupted” (irrué) is an attempt to categorize fissured New World–space. It was first used in Glissant’s 1981 book of essays, Caribbean Discourse, to distinguish the New World from the settled, ordered space of Europe. Perhaps his intuition was that the unsettled, exploded, and “rent” nature of the Americas was merely a prelude to the global condition of the chaos monde. What Glissant brought to the overdetermined concept of creolization was the idea that it was a process that could never be stabilized. It could never lead to containment or completion but was creatively enriched by the recognition of otherness and opacity. Instead of static hybridity or predictable metissage, the process of creolization perpetually created new orders of difference and knowing out of the encounter with the “abyss” of the unknown. American Creoles, edited by Martin Munro and Celia Britton, is the work that most directly engages...
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):161-169.
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    ABSTRACT: Thomas Obinkaram Echewa, who has been termed a “late bloomer” in his literary career, makes critical use of the art of storytelling and raises serious concerns in his novels—The Land’s Lord, The Crippled Dancer, and I Saw the Sky Catch Fire—which open up a cornucopia of avenues to explore. He rethinks historical concerns, links them to contemporary issues, and takes “liberties with historicity,” writing alternative histories through his novels. Utilizing what he describes as an “Igbofication” or jazzification” of the English language, Echewa creates a multidimensional space in his writings, highlighting the need for cultural coexistence. In this interview, he talks about how his “identity as an Igbo, Nigerian, and African became crystallized when [he] crossed the border into another country and hemisphere” and accentuates the idea that “our common humanity manifests itself in various ways in different cultures and nationalities.”
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):150-160.
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    ABSTRACT: The first anthology of its kind, Francophone Women Writers: Feminisms, Postcolonialisms, Cross-Cultures by Eric Touya de Marenne spans a vast geo-cultural range. Touya de Marenne innovatively brings together women writers from North Africa, West Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Pacific, and the Near East. The selected writers are well-studied and, in some cases, canonical voices of francophone literatures. While such a choice may raise some legitimate questions about the necessity of this anthology, the contribution of the volume rather lies in its critical account of this literary tradition. A set of important questions frame Francophone Women Writers: “How do we take into account cultural and historical differences when we write/read about women in the ‘global’ francophone world? Are there more legitimate voices to hear than others? What should be the place of postcolonial and feminist theories in reading and interpreting the literary works of francophone women authors?” (1). The author does not provide definitive answers to these questions. Instead the questions appear to work as signposts for his critical engagement with the category of francophone women writers. The five chapters of the book represent the overarching interpretive frameworks within which the author reads francophone women writers, with each being carefully assessed in the introduction. The review of these frameworks offers a useful inventory of key critical questions and debates in the study of francophone women writers. Chapter one, on “Feminisms: Resistance and Heteroglossia,” surveys relevant themes in the works of Mariama Bâ, Nina Bouraoui, Joyce Mansour, Anne Hébert, and Amélie Nothomb. The selected excerpts from the texts of these writers foreground different models of feminist resistance to patriarchal systems. Mariama Bâ and Nina Bouraoui focus on the creation of new self-affirming spaces for women, Joyce Mansour explores the free expression of sexual desire, and Amélie Nothomb and Anne Hébert privilege the movement from subjugation to subjectivity. In chapter 2, “Postcolonialisms: Politics and Power,” Touya de Marenne pays attention to the various ways in which francophone women writers engage and rewrite the postcolonial experience from a woman’s standpoint. Excerpts from Assia Djebar, Déwé Gorode, Werewere-Liking Gnepo, Marie-Célie Agnant, and Marie Chauvet show the writers’ shared concerns with the legacies of colonialism, the deferred emancipation of women in postcolonial societies, and the subsequent disenchantment of postcolonial women. In chapter 3, “Cross-Cultures: Nomadic Identities,” the author brings together Maryse Condé, Mayotte Capécia, Gabrielle Roy, Kim Lefèvre, and Isabelle Eberhardt around questions of hybridity, border crossings, and the identitary predicaments of subjects caught in-between spaces. Chapter 4, “Counter-Discourses: Alterity and the Family Order,” showcases various forms of resistance against the family order. The excerpts in this chapter are from the works of Calixthe Beyala, Ying Chen, Ananda Devi, Marie N’Diaye, and Andrée Chedid. Chapter 5, “Beyond Borders: Transcendent Spaces,” addresses the quest for new feminist paradigms and languages of representation and selected writers include Véronique Tadjo, Corinna Bille, Gabrielle Roy, and Venus Khoury-Ghata. Francophone Women Writers: Feminisms, Postcolonialisms, Cross-Cultures presents a compelling selection of texts. The juxtaposition of authors who had never been brought together before will be of interest to scholars and teachers of francophone literatures, while the biographical notes and individual and general bibliographies make this anthology an important resource book for students of francophone women’s writings.
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):172-173.
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    ABSTRACT: In this essay, I present a “queer” reading of the (post)colonial novels by Jef Geeraerts, a Flemish author infamous for his explicit depictions of sex and violence in the Belgian Congo. I demonstrate how both his racism and misogyny feed on a homoerotic dynamic that appears to destabilize hegemonic colonial discourse, but is actually mobilized as a literary strategy to forge a new kind of white masculinity in the “heart of darkness.” Despite Geeraerts’s conscious anti-establishment modernism, this underlying and often overlooked homoerotics in ostensibly “heterosexual” novels is shown to be an accomplice of colonial power, silencing the black other and reaffirming a porno-tropic tradition of racial fetishism.
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):63-84.
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    ABSTRACT: Africa is a continent replete with rich cultural tools that nurtured diverse ancient civilizations. However, Western scholarship has often omitted, ignored, or deemphasized this cultural heritage (see Davidson), an attitude based largely on the assumption that non-Western traditions are rudimentary (see Reagan), which smacks of an element of cultural and epistemological ethnocentrism. It is with this view that I find Malunga’s use of African proverbs and folktales as tools for self-development very welcome and opportune. The 21st century is witnessing the fusion of different socioeconomic paradigms as boundary lines of competing “isms” are now fading away. Thus, if we are to understand ourselves and others in this global era, we need to talk about the cultural interconnectedness of human experiences by fostering alternative visions of reality that can be referenced by advancing the use of indigenous symbols, such as the proverbs and folktales under consideration in Malunga’s text. Malunga’s underlying purpose here is to accelerate the process by which the existing discourses in traditional African thought and processes through folktales can be utilized as cultural tools in this era of globalization. Chapter one, which serves as an introduction, provides a quick overview, illustrates the wisdom contained in African proverbs and folktales, and also addresses, in detail, themes such as African proverbs and folktales as sources of wisdom, the need for postcolonial knowledge and wisdom, African proverbs and their role in self-development, and the role of self-development. The second chapter builds on this introductory material by examining the purpose as the fountain and foundation of the process of self-development through the proverb “the river that forgets its source will soon dry up.” Malunga argues that identifying one’s purpose is the starting point of the journey of self-development and that when we surrender to our purpose, we are free from comparing ourselves with others. Thus, one must continually and consciously reflect on one’s uniqueness and how one can use it to one’s advantage and to touch other people. Chapters three through eight are a dossier of essential themes and information surrounding the topic of self-development, such as how to concentrate one’s resources of time, money, and energy; the importance of creating practical plans in order to turn one’s life purpose into concrete work; how to build one’s mental powers; and the importance and role of effective time management. The underpinning message of chapters nine and ten, on the other hand, rest on the proverb “if an elephant steps on a trap that is set, the trap does not spring back” to discuss the processes and role of self-development in the acquisition, retention, and use of power and influence. The concluding chapter synthesizes the issues raised through a practical summary of how to undertake the journey of self-development through the proverb “the only tree that grows is the forest.” The book concludes with fourteen pages of invaluable appendices, which might be useful for the reader and are one of the brightest spots of the book. Appendix 1 provides a list of “Power and Influence Proverbs,” addressing the major themes covered in the book, and includes resources about how African traditional oral literature can contribute to the development of one’s power and influence. In addition, appendices 2 and 3 discuss self-development assessment tools and interventions. Most chapters open the dialogue with African proverbs followed by folktales to explore the conceptual and pedagogical landscapes of these non-Western cultural narratives. The sub-themes are packed with essential information, sometimes with illustrations from lived experiences from the author, which help create an alternative paradigm of reality that gives the reader a clearer and better understanding of the subject. A major strength of the book is that each chapter ends with critical thinking challenges in the form of “Reflection” proverbs, which help the reader conceptualize the embedded lessons. Thus, the sequential structure of the book gives any reader countless examples of How tos, which makes the book inspirational and motivational as it helps change peoples’ lives, encourage positive attitudes, and enhance personal development. Furthermore, this book vividly highlights the cognitive relevance of African cultural heritages, of which...
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):170-172.
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    ABSTRACT: The starting point of this essay is Wole Soyinka’s (in)famous claim concerning his Death and the King’s Horseman that the “Colonial Factor is … a catalytic incident merely.” Since that assertion appears to be at odds with the central movement of the play, almost to the point of missing a truth that simply cannot be missed, the essay aims to address a question first posed by Anthony Appiah, “why [does] Soyinka feel the need to conceal his purposes?” The focal point of the answer will be Freud’s notion of Nachträglichkeit (“deferred action”), especially as revised through Cathy Caruth’s seminal work on trauma theory. Through an extended rhetorical analysis of the play, the essay details how the subject of colonization can be understood as the subject of trauma precisely to the extent that the experience of colonization entails an originary missing of the event itself. The essay’s final section explores how such a missing yet offers an ethical opportunity, the bearing witness to what it means not to see.
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):125-149.
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    ABSTRACT: Verre Cassé, Alain Mabanckou’s fifth novel, awarded several “Franco-French” literary prizes, launched the author’s breakthrough as a “francophone”/French writer. This essay opens with a description of Mabanckou’s ascension to the global pantheon of postcolonial writers, as Verre Cassé was included among the 3% of all literature translated into English. A primary challenge for Helen Stevenson, the translator of the novel, were the approximately three hundred predominantly literary references that were incorporated in the source text. Approximately half of these intertexts from African, French, and world literature are lost in the translation. Referring to the two different regimes of reading as described by Roland Barthes in The Pleasure of the Text, this essay analyzes the causes and consequences of the loss of the references in the translation. To what extent are the pleasure of the reading as well as the understanding of the author’s message affected by these losses?
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):107-124.
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    ABSTRACT: The present article examines the way Zakia Tahiri’s film Number One (2009) foregrounds a renewed understanding of gender and gender relations in contemporary Morocco, especially in the wake of the New Family Code Reform (Moudawana), which has revolutionized women’s status by increasing their power in the private as well as the public spheres. It centers not on the oft-studied subject of women and the regulation of femininity in Arab countries, but on the complex relationship between masculinity and performance, highlighting the sociocultural norms that have shaped and affected the performance of masculinity in Arabo-Muslim contexts. In particular, this study examines how Tahiri uses subversive comedy to challenge traditional views and constructions of male and female roles, to expose and dismantle the normative constructions of masculinity, and to promote the emergence of a new social frame that begs for different gender performances.
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):24-38.
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    ABSTRACT: In The Silent Minaret, South African–born writer Ishtiyaq Shukri links apartheid-era obsessions with classifying and immobilizing people with the anxieties of the post-9/11 world, where nations in the geopolitical West similarly attempt to categorize and restrict threatening “dark bodies.” Through connections between the trajectory and scholarly journey of Shukri’s protagonist, Issa, I examine the relationship between educating the public to be on the alert for signals that mark certain people as “threatening others,” the subsequent responses of suspicion, fear, and terror, and the consequences to the bearers of such marks as they are subjected to constant surveillance. Shukri’s “disappeared” narrator, who educates and politicizes his friends in absentia, raises questions that are especially pertinent in light of recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s ability to routinely reach into individuals’ private information. Issa’s disappearance gives him a location of agency; paradoxically, it also highlights the authority and power of the state.
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):1-23.
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    ABSTRACT: This essays reads Alejo Carpentier’s novel The Kingdom of This World against his theorization of American modernity, the marvelous real, to argue that, although Carpentier can use Haiti to depict the marvelous-ness of the Americas through the spirituality of Haitians, he cannot see beyond Haiti’s dire post-revolutionary state. By the narrative’s end, Carpentier deliberately elides Haiti’s postcolonial present and the people whose spiritual sensibility enabled the revolution to better disclose the potential and exception of the Americas. In doing this, he undermines a key tenet in his theory of the present: the new artistic and intellectual tradition, distinct from the West, which the marvelous real is intended to exemplify. As a result, Carpentier returns to the conceptual bounds he sought to move beyond with the West remaining singular and worthy of replication.
    Research in African Literatures 03/2014; 45(1):85-106.
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    ABSTRACT: Aimé Césaire (1913–2008) was internationally recognized as a poet, playwright, and statesman, but perhaps his most lasting literary legacy was his association with the inauguration of the Negritude movement. This version of the Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, first published in 1939, is edited and translated by the renowned Césairean scholar and specialist A. James Arnold, author of the ground-breaking study Modernism and Negritude, and Clayton Eshleman—who along with Annette Smith produced the translated volume Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry in 1983. Following their groundbreaking translation and publication of Césaire’s Soleil cou coupé collection in 2011, this text claims to restore the entirety of the seldom-seen 1939 edition of the Cahier and presents the whole in a bilingual, page-by-facing-page edition. In the Introduction, the translators discuss the genesis and construction of the poem, as well as the severe editing changes to which it was made subject for each subsequent version. The varying influences of Claudel, Péguy, Rimbaud, and Lautréamont on Césaire’s nascent poetic voice as it appeared in the avant-garde literary magazine Volontés in August 1939 is traced and analyzed. The several sections of the poem are summed up as comprising “109 strophes of mixed prose and verse” (xi), terms that will facilitate the delineation of the structural and vocabulary changes enacted for each of the poem’s three subsequent editions. The primary themes associated with the different sections are presented, making the translators’ position vis-à vis both negritude and the content of differing editions ineluctably clear; “Négritude as it is presented in the poem did not yet exist in 1939, still less was it the harbinger of any movement, as readers of the post-1956 text would have it” (xv). Further, the translators emphatically and correctly point out that this most seminal of Césaire’s poems is, “in effect, a palimpsest” (xvi). The changes that the poet effected to the three subsequent editions are carefully delineated, “On three occasions after the pre-original publication in Volontés . . . Césaire overwrote the carefully composed poem in a new spirit and with different aims” (xvi–xvii). It is at this point that the compelling research into the various iterations of the Cahier that undergirds this edition is at its most visible, as the changes, elisions, and additions that characterize each subsequent edition—the Brentano’s edition of 1947, the Paris–based Bordas edition of several weeks later, and the 1956 edition—are then carefully and specifically delineated. The extent to which Césaire removed carefully chosen verses and added new ones, in acts of discursive substitution that shifted the thematic perspective of succeeding editions from spiritualism to socialism, for example, is now both apparent and accessible. With the implicit confusion over these competing editions now stripped away, the linguistic and thematic resistance that was embodied in the 1939 edition—from the spiritual renewal of the speaker to the critique of his country’s colonial condition—now emerges, untrammeled. As for the translation itself, one might say that its chief characteristics are clarity and elegance, proceeding by numbered strophes across bilingual facing pages whose content are—as they should be—essentially matches for each other. Indeed, to say that the language verges on the poetic at times is no exaggeration. At the same time, the quality of the translation is striking, in that it is astonishingly direct and transparent. It mirrors the French strophes in content and form; paragraph-long sentences are accurately reproduced and details of description alternate with passages that evoke nostalgia, anger, and sorrow in turn, as familiar events give way to the resistive and creative voice of a burgeoning Negritude. A useful Appendix frames the literary and publishing history of other editions of the Cahier as well as several foreign-language editions and this is followed by several pages of notes that, acting as a glossary, explain obscure words and cultural references from asterisks embedded within the body of the poem. In sum, then, this is a stellar addition to the Césaire lexicon, which by finally establishing the substance of the 1939 edition, allows a...
    Research in African Literatures 01/2014; 45(2):184-185.
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    ABSTRACT: This special issue of Research in African Literatures is aimed at advancing existing scholarship and the critical and theoretical frameworks engendered by recent special panels, publications, and a sui generis conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which focused on the illustrious playwright, poet, essayist, and masterful short story writer, Ama Ata Aidoo. Given her creative eclecticism, we propose a broad critical canvas consonant with the multiple, overlapping, and complex orbits of her oeuvre. Whereas essays may focus on specific topics, themes, or works, we are more interested in broadening critical categories, seeking nuances and innovative scholarship positioned at the intersections of feminist scholarship, literary, and cultural and performance studies. In this context, areas of inquiry include, but are not limited to, issues of culture, gender, genre, history, nation, nationalism, marriage, family, relationships, myth, folklore, memory, identities, patriarchy, resistance, form, aesthetics, authorship, language, class, society, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and diaspora. All finished manuscripts are expected to conform to the standard RAL guidelines published in every issue of the journal and all submissions will be subject to peer review. Prospective contributors should send their 250–500 word abstracts by May 13, 2014 and expect notification of selection by Monday, June 30, 2014. Final papers are due Monday, December 15, 2014 and will be subject to peer review. The guest editors encourage potential contributors to establish early contact via email to mcmahon@theaterdance.ucsb.edu (Christina McMahon) and akudinob@blackstudies.ucsb.edu (Jude Akudinobi).
    Research in African Literatures 01/2014; 45(1):174-174.