En gl 308 intro & achebe


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  • 2 points that underpin what we are exploring and assessing on this course…
  • En gl 308 intro & achebe

    1. 1. ENGL 308: Contemporary Literature -Introduction -Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)
    2. 2. When is the contemporary? <ul><li>Post-1945, ie. rupture & legacy of WW2 </li></ul><ul><li>1960s and after - major social changes in Western contexts - postmodern paradigm </li></ul><ul><li>C21 - or post-9/11? </li></ul><ul><li>Watershed historical moments </li></ul><ul><li>Literary or critical/theoretical movements </li></ul><ul><li>Retrospective periodisation </li></ul><ul><li>The challenge of the open end </li></ul>
    3. 3. The contemporary, 308-style <ul><li>After ‘high’ European literary modernism </li></ul><ul><li>Intense & rapid socio-cultural changes </li></ul><ul><li>Postmodernity; the ‘logic of late capitalism’ </li></ul><ul><li>From the theoretical turn to post-theory </li></ul><ul><li>Decolonisation (cf. post-war) </li></ul><ul><li>New national & transnational English literatures </li></ul><ul><li>Migration, diaspora, globalisation and new cultural formations </li></ul>
    4. 4. Some key contexts <ul><li>Loss of empire / national independence </li></ul><ul><li>Migrant & intercultural experience </li></ul><ul><li>Other journeys: gender, sexuality, class </li></ul><ul><li>Devolution </li></ul><ul><li>Religion: fall & rise? </li></ul><ul><li>Late capitalism </li></ul><ul><li>Globalisation & its discontents </li></ul><ul><li>9/11 & ‘war on terror’ </li></ul><ul><li>Genre experimentation </li></ul>
    5. 5. Productive tensions <ul><li>Identity politics / universal humanist values </li></ul><ul><li>Postmodern / postcolonial </li></ul><ul><li>Global / local </li></ul><ul><li>Marginality / new centres </li></ul><ul><li>Connectivity / boundary reinforcement </li></ul><ul><li>Politics of production & reception </li></ul><ul><li>Art / popular culture </li></ul>
    6. 6. Padley, Key Concepts in Contemporary Literature <ul><li>‘ an increasing sense of democratisation, of challenges, from previously marginalised constituencies, to the values and judgement that historically had governed the formation of the literary canon’, p. xii </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Developments in literary theory and criticism… raising fundamental questions about the ways in which texts can be read and interpreted’, p. xii </li></ul>
    7. 7. Contemporary literatures in English <ul><li>rather than contemporary British or Anglo-American literature(s) </li></ul><ul><li>cf. Padley’s focus on post-war Britain </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Even when practitioners of English are committed to expanding its horizons, they seem unable to break out of the organisation of the discipline in terms of a set of texts and periods that assume the centrality of English in the business of doing English’ - Simon Gikandi, ‘Globalization & Postcoloniality’, p. 116 </li></ul>
    8. 8. Chinua Achebe <ul><li>‘ Most African writers write out of an African experience and commitment to an African destiny. For them that destiny does not include a future European identity for which the present is but an apprenticeship. And let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English for we intend to do unheard of things with it!’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Achebe, ‘Colonialist Criticism’, p7 </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Opposition & entanglement <ul><li>‘ the historical significance of Achebe’s works lies in his ability to evolve narrative procedures through which the colonial language, which was previously intended to designate and reproduce the colonial ideology, now evokes new forms of expression, proffers a new oppositional discourse’ - Gikandi, Reading Chinua Achebe , p. 4 </li></ul>
    10. 10. ‘ The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger ’ <ul><li>‘The story of this man…would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on it. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate… one must be firm in cutting out details’ - TFA , final paragraph. </li></ul>
    11. 11. Issues <ul><li>Choice of language & form, related to audience: Achebe vs. Ngugi wa Thiong’O </li></ul><ul><li>Interface between orature & literature </li></ul><ul><li>The postcolonial novel as inherently translational? See Rushdie, SV , on ‘how newness enters the world’ </li></ul><ul><li>Juxtaposition of time of plot and time of publication: decline/renewal </li></ul>
    12. 12. Title & epigraph <ul><li>Turning and turning in the widening gyre </li></ul><ul><li>The falcon cannot hear the falconer </li></ul><ul><li>Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; </li></ul><ul><li>Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. </li></ul><ul><li>- W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’ </li></ul><ul><li>Textually: for whom, when, why do things fall apart? </li></ul><ul><li>Intertextually: everything declines/regenerates </li></ul><ul><li>Paratextually: what happens after empire? </li></ul>
    13. 13. Hopes & impediments <ul><li>Stereotypes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a) Africa has no history or culture; as setting for European action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>b) Africa is all history, ie. primitive tradition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>c) Africa is the antithesis of Europe </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Provision of an alternative frame of reference </li></ul><ul><li>Creation of ‘a useable past’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Claiming textuality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That past is neither bucolic nor barbaric; it is complex and compromising </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>See Achebe, ‘An Image of Africa’, ‘Colonialist Criticism’ & ‘The Novelist as Teacher’ </li></ul></ul></ul>
    14. 14. <ul><li>To what extent and how is this agenda visible in TFA ? </li></ul><ul><li>To what extent are ideas about ‘counter-representation’ or ‘writing back to the centre’ adequate to our understanding of this novel? </li></ul>
    15. 15. <ul><li>Strategic telescoping: from missionary activity to colonialism proper </li></ul><ul><li>1884-5 Berlin conference </li></ul><ul><li>Historical cusp narrative (cf. No Longer </li></ul><ul><li>at Ease , set 1950s) </li></ul><ul><li>1914 Nigeria united under British rule </li></ul><ul><li>Achebe b. 1930 in Igboland (south Nigeria) </li></ul><ul><li>TFA 1958 </li></ul><ul><li>Nigerian independence 1960 </li></ul><ul><li>Broadcaster (BBC-trained), lecturer, writer, </li></ul><ul><li>editor of Heinemann African Writers </li></ul><ul><li>Supporter of Biafra secession 1968-71 </li></ul>
    16. 16. Tripartite structure <ul><li>Part I: home; complete world; rooted in mythic time/oral history; indigenous institutions; seasonal life cycles; earth links to ancestors; ‘Umuofia’; balance, continuity, collectivity </li></ul><ul><li>Part II: exile/interlude; economy of scale moves to ‘the world at large’; white men; pace accelerates; 7-day week; cyclical to linear/teleological time </li></ul><ul><li>Part III: return; unhomeliness; pace accelerates; colonial institutions; divided clan; new centre; ‘we have fallen apart’ </li></ul>
    17. 17. Aspects of Tragedy <ul><li>Fatally flawed hero (complicates dominant moral/political coding) - hypermasculinity/ inflexibility. An over-reacher. </li></ul><ul><li>Faultlines of community </li></ul><ul><li>Tensions: individual will/collective well-being; individual agency/predetermination </li></ul><ul><li>Inevitability: foreshadowing, prophecies. Privileging of different past frames gives way to fear of future (and some fatal repetition) </li></ul>
    18. 18. Narrative Perspective <ul><li>Evaluative statements - ‘If ever a man deserved his success, that man was Okonkwo’ </li></ul><ul><li>Erratic proximity to protagonist & some shifting focalisation (Nwoye; Ekwefi; DC) </li></ul><ul><li>Who is the narrator? Heterodiegetic but of the community (an elder)? </li></ul><ul><li>Cf. ‘these people’; ‘the Ibo’ - authorial intrusion? ethnographic perspective? </li></ul><ul><li>Becomes more detached & omniscient - implications? </li></ul>
    19. 19. Other aspects of narrative technique <ul><li>Forms of glossing of non-English vocab. (eg. ‘harmattan’ / ‘the cold and dry harmattan wind’) </li></ul><ul><li>Untranslated text (Chielo’s prophecy about Ezinma) </li></ul><ul><li>Thematic and structural tension between oral/written </li></ul><ul><ul><li>local knowledge as ‘stories’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>stories & proverbs as ‘the palm-oil with which words are eaten’ </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. ‘ sophisticated primitivism’ <ul><li>A syncretic text, fusing oral & written </li></ul><ul><li>Reproduces oral phenomenology </li></ul><ul><li>Aggregation of detail, rather than synthesis (see first paragraph) </li></ul><ul><li>Relatively flat characters defined by actions </li></ul><ul><li>Periphrasis - as in conversation rituals </li></ul><ul><li>Allegorical </li></ul><ul><li>Repetition </li></ul><ul><li>Enacts oral to written transition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>See JanMohamed in Irele </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. <ul><li>‘ TFA legitimizes [the] process whereby women were excluded from post-colonial politics and public affairs through its representation of pre-colonial Igbo society as governed entirely by men… A c hebe… generally avoids questioning the hierarchical nature of gender relations in Umuofia society, an indication of his attitude towards the status quo of male dominance’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>F. Stratton, p28, p27. </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Gender <ul><li>Factual errors, suppressing matriarchal elements </li></ul><ul><li>Women not presented as agents of change </li></ul><ul><li>Some wives and mother not named or fleshed out </li></ul><ul><li>Diagnostic of gendered inequalities? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>women shown on social & political margins; as status markers & objects of exchange; subjected to abuse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hypermasculinity exposed as blindspot - repression of ‘femininity’ is O’s fatal flaw </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Privileging of the ‘female principle’ in culture: ‘Mother is supreme’; Chielo; Ani </li></ul>
    23. 23. ‘ where one thing stands, another stands beside it’ <ul><li>core episteme of dualism/balance - Gikandi </li></ul><ul><li>Parallel male & female worlds </li></ul><ul><li>Parallel real/magical epistemes </li></ul><ul><li>Male & female crimes </li></ul><ul><li>Women’s stories transmit privileged collective principles, ie. provide internal critique (chorus?) </li></ul>
    24. 24. <ul><li>‘ The value of culture as an element of resistance to foreign domination lies in the fact that culture is the vigorous manifestation on the ideological or idealist plane of the physical and historical reality of the society that is dominated’ - A. Cabral, p. 54 </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Art for art’s sake is just another piece of deodorised dog-shit…’ - Achebe, ‘Africa & her Writers’, p. 19 </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The “na tion” is precisely what Foucault has called a “di scursive formation” – … a gestative political structure which the Third World artist is consciously building or suffering the lack of’ - T. Brennan, p. 46-7 </li></ul>
    25. 25. Works Cited <ul><li>Achebe, Chinua. ‘Africa and her Writers’ and ‘Colonialist Criticism’, Morning Yet on Creation Day: Essays . London: Heinemann, 1977 </li></ul><ul><li>Achebe, Chinua. ‘The Novelist as Teacher’, Hopes and Impediments . NY: Doubleday, 1988 </li></ul><ul><li>Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart . Authoritative Text, Contexts and Criticism . Ed. By F. Abiola Irele. NY: Norton, 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Brennan, Timothy, ‘The National Longing for Form’, in ed. Homi K. Bhabha, Nation and Narration . London: Routledge, 1990 </li></ul><ul><li>Cabral, Amilcar. ‘National Liberation and Culture’, in eds. Patrick Williams & Laura Chrisman, Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader . London: Routledge, 1993 </li></ul><ul><li>Gikandi, Simon. ‘Globalization and Postcoloniality’, in eds. Liam Connell & Nicky Marsh, Literature and Globalization: A Reader . Abingdon: Routledge, 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>Gikandi, Simon. Reading Chinua Achebe: Language and Ideology in Fiction . London: James Currey, 1991 </li></ul><ul><li>Padley, Steve. Key Concepts in Contemporary Literature. London: Palgrave, 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Stratton, Florence. Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender. London: Routledge, 1994 </li></ul>