AFRICAN LITERATURE AS WORLDLITERATURE: ALTERNATIVE GENEALOGIES AND SELF-REFERENTIALISM
Hodapp, James Michael
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Since the 1989 publication of The Empire Writes Back by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, discourse on seminal African literary texts has focused on their ability to "write back" to the European canon. Using this common trope, a seminal African text is understood as a response to demeaning representations of Africans in the European literary canon. However, writing back privileges European literature by treating it as the source, or "parent texts," of African literature. Within the last five years, critics like Evan Mwangi and Ode Ogede have begun to question whether African literature needs to be defined largely in reference to Western works. They have argued that the writing back paradigm forces African literature into an inequitable and asymmetrical relation to European texts. My dissertation, "African Literature as World Literature: Alternative Genealogies and Self-Referentialism," extends this project to offer theoretical and methodological alternatives by bridging African literary studies with postcolonial theory and the current world literature debate to create previously obscured cultural, political and literary genealogies of African novels. I argue that complex intertextual genealogies generated from specific knowledge provide African source material for more complete readings of African novels. This project critiques the temporally and geographically myopic approaches of Mwangi and Ogede to reposition African literature in a globalized context by not only dismantling the theoretical assumptions of a center/margin paradigm but also positioning African literature as a sovereign entity in world literature.