Final Paper.

As a final project I will be analyzing the question of womanhood in the African novel, a common thread that has been recurring in all our readings since the beginning of the semester. Whether it is called feminism in the African novel or women in the African novel does not make a big difference; the point is that female characters, as we have seen, have a specific role in African texts, and upon which there is no clear understanding. I first decided to write about the nature of the African novel; is it purely African? Or do we have to call it postcolonial? And my position in this matter has been very clear; that there is no such thing a purely African novel given the universality of the themes and the “unafrican” modes of representations; instead we should talk about postcolonial African novels. Having given up on that project for a more feministic agenda, I have come to realize that dealing with the question of womanhood in the African novel has somehow brought me back to my starting point: the post colony.

In this endeavor, I would like to analyze Things Fall Apart and Graceland; two different generations in which womanhood and “feminité” are at their most complex representations. My questions would be what is feministic in these novels? Why is it so burdensome or even tragic to be a woman? Who or what do women stand for in these texts? My postcolonial instinct causes me to regard the land of Africa as the first female character in these novels. We can see this tendency in all African novels that involve female characters, which should ring a bell in the ears of anyone who is analyzing them through the lenses of a postcolonial student.

Such an enterprise might be a bit tricky, it requires a close reading of these text but we will also need, at times, to take a different tangent, away from the English speaking Africa to draw similarities and to find that common thread. We have taken the risk, like Jameson, to say ALL African novels, which might protract the scale and the scope of this analysis; but finding that common thread would amount to confirm a bigger question, that of the nature of African novels as being purely postcolonial.

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About sdiouf

Ph.D student in Comparative Literature.
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One Response to Final Paper.

  1. Anne Gulick says:

    So it seems like what you’re interested in focusing here is the depiction of women, and the metaphorical/allegorical weight women assume, in a couple of novels by Anglophone Nigerian male authors from different generations – in the hope that there may be ways to draw larger conclusions from this analysis about the role of women in African novels more broadly. Does that sound about right? Because you presumably want critically interrogate the colonialist trope of Africa as the (female) “dark continent” rather than replicating that trope, I think you want to be very clear about that in your language; it’s also going to be important for you to foreground that you’re talking about how male authors are depicting women, as much ink has been spilled over how differently (canonical, heterosexual) male authors tend to do so in comparison to how women do. The first two chapters of Florence Stratton’s Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender (Routledge 1994) as well as Susan Andrade’s The Nation Writ Small (Duke 2011) are two studies of gender and African fiction that I think you’ll find useful. But most importantly you’ll want to spend some quality time with Anne McClintock’s Imperial Leather (Duke 1995) – we’re going to read one chapter for next week, but you’ll want to read around a little more in that volume in order to familiarize yourself with how critics have tackled these questions and what some of the predominant arguments about women’s role in an African colonial and postcolonial imaginary are.

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