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Writing Away: Old Affinities and New Itineraries in Contemporary African Writing



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Ogene, Timothy 


This project is an attempt to capture a particular impulse within the current wave of cultural production emerging from Africa and its new diaspora. It is a reading of five contemporary writers whose works indicate an awareness of the intellectual genealogies of African cultural productions but reflect a departure from the modes of realist documentation of history and the everyday in Africa and its new diaspora. Departing from the methods, suspicions, and anxieties of existing theoretical frameworks, I anchor my reading on the texts themselves and the series of affinities that emerge at the levels of style, intertextuality, focalization, and aesthetic inclinations. Guided by traces of referentiality and self-reflexivity within the texts, as opposed to an existing theoretical frame, I read for the affiliative impulse, conceptions of ‘home,’ and negotiations of identity in the works of Petina Gappah, Teju Cole, Jamal Mahjoub, E. C. Osondu, and Nthikeng Mohlele, with a focus on re-negotiations of existing affiliative tendencies in African literary practices. While the chapters on Cole and Mahjoub emphasize strategic itineracy and ‘critical Afropolitanism’ as alternatives to the ‘natural synthesis’ that marked early postcolonial writing, the chapters on Gappah and Osondu highlight the inherent simultaneity and affiliative possibilities in the narrative of historical encounter in Africa. The chapter on Mohlele considers the movement away from writing back to Europe to negotiating its localized legacies in Africa. The chapters are propelled by the intention to trace threads of past literary impulses while noting points of re-negotiation and departure.





Warnes, Chris


African literature, postcolonial literature, contemporary literature


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge