Modernism and African Literature

Neil Lazarus

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195338904
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Modernism and African Literature

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  • Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature)
  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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Looking at African literature, this article focuses on the fierce dispute that erupted between Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jemie, and Ihechukwu Madubuike, on the one hand, and Wole Soyinka, on the other, in the mid-1970s, and which took the form of an argument about the thrust, tendency, and significance of modern African poetics. Centrally at issue in this dispute is the relationship between modernism and modernity. Presenting modernity as “Western,” and suggesting that it be understood in “civilizational” terms as part and parcel of the colonial project, Chinweizu and others leave themselves with no alternative but to uphold some competing notion of an essential “African” way of life.

Keywords: deloconization; modernism; Wole Soyinka; modern African poetics; Chinweizu; Onwuchekwa Jemie; Ihechukwu Madubuike

Article.  8806 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature) ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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