annotated biblography

Things Fall Apart: extroverted or postcolonial

While reading Things Fall Apart the “africanity” of the text becomes a serious question. As a postcolonial student I started wondering whether we are analyzing purely an African texts or simply postcolonial works, and delineating these two domains is not an easy enterprise. When we try to look up the best postcolonial novels on Amazon or Google, Things Fall Apart remains in the top three; and when we do the same with African novels we will still find Things Fall Apart. This coincidence seems too normal to draw readers’ attention because what is defined as a postcolonial work can be African, and what is African can be postcolonial as well given that there is a natural and historic bond between these two worlds.

The novel as a genre is itself not an African concept; and its dynamic and the narration system are the antipodes to African orality. Second, it is almost impossible for an outside reader to learn and understand African culture by reading an “African” novel. In Jumping Monkey Hills, for instance, the question of authenticity constitutes a central part in Adichie’s argument; and different characters representing different parts of Africa argue about the relevancy of their story and, in turn, each story is questioned for not being relevant to the African condition. Fanon, in a more complex register tackles the issue while laying emphasis on the colonized intellectual and their symptomatic incapacity to portray the reality of their condition.

In order to identify what really makes these African novels not purely African, which then qualifies them as truly postcolonial, we will need to have a clear understanding of what could make a novel postcolonial, and then we will be able to follow that thread through the works of these great African novelist. We have come to realize that some novels, while dealing with a national story, call for concepts and realities that transcend the culture of the people they describe, they place themselves in a context that render a condition that goes beyond the nation; and that condition is nothing else than colonial modernity.

  • Quayson, Ato. “Realism, Criticism, and the Disguises of Both: A Reading of Chinua Achebe’s “things Fall Apart” with an Evaluation of the Criticism Relating to It”. Research in African Literatures4 (1994): 117–136. Web…
  • “ The author suggests that the representationalist readings that relate to this work are, though valid, grossly inadequate and that it is preferable to adopt a multi-tiered approach to Achebe’s work and to African literature in general that will not take them as merely mimetic of an African reality but will pay attention to them as ‘restructurations’ of various cultural subtexts.” The over emphasis on the realistic dimension of the novel constitutes the fundamental problem in analyzing Things Fall Apart.





  • Jeyifo, Biodun. “okonkwo and his Mother: Things Fall Apart and issues of Gender in the Constitution of African Postcolonial Discourse.” Callaloo 16.4 (1993): 847-858.


  • Women occupy a central position in African literature either by their absence or by their treatment as “the spheres of male initiatives and control”. By raising the question of gender and analyzing a female character that has been left out it is clear that the common tropes about womanhood will be debunked.



  • Wise, Christopher. “Excavating the New Republic: Post-colonial Subjectivity in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.” Callaloo4 (1999): 1054-1070.
  • This article will allow us to have a broader view of the world/environment into which Things Fall Apart was born. In fact, it is a necessary text that purports to limit the endless interpretation of Achebe’s text. Also, should we note that Achebe’s thoughts on several topics related to history and culture is very explicit in this text, which, somehow, reveals Achebe’s position from a historical and anthropological point of view.




  • Marx, John. “Postcolonial literature and the Western literary canon.” The Cambridge companion to postcolonial literary studies (2004): 83-96.
  • The biggest problem of Achebe’s novel is its duality: postcolonial and geographically African. Max describes this tendancy to include these texts that are labeled to as postcolonial into a western canon. Deconstructing such a tradition will help us not only identify what actually makes this novel postcolonial.



  • Jameson, Fredric. “Third-world literature in the era of multinational capitalism.” Social text 15 (1986): 65-88.
  • Jameson’s article occupies a central position in my analysis for the simple reasons that it deals with the question of nation and its meaning in Third World narratives. This text is purely provocative in the sense that it somehow makes a blanket statement, which deserves it harsh criticisms by modern scholars, who, by nature rejects any form of rigidity. However, our reading of Jameson’s text, put into conversation with Things Fall Apart, will be less allegoric.




  • Julien, Eileen. “The extroverted African novel.” The Novel, 1: History, Geography, and culture. Ed. Franco Moretti. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006. 667-702.
  • The presence of Julien’s article has a lot to do with its connection to Jameson’s article and to the clarification of the meaning of postcolonial novels. The central claim of my paper is that what we tend to refer to as extroverted is simply postcolonial; and this hesitation in dealing with the modern African novel is very telling of this new postcolonial reality.

About sdiouf

Ph.D student in Comparative Literature.
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