Why does no one in African Literary Studies Care about Realism?

Susan Andrade

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1155 Observatory Drive Madison, WI 53706, 206 Ingraham Hall
@ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Africa at Noon








Speaker: Susan Andrade

Time: 12:00 pm- 1:00 pm

Venue: 206 Ingraham Hall

African novels have taken their rightful place in the world republic of letters, but they lack a full back story.  Put another way, we know that Tsitsi Dangarembga, Chimamanda Adichie and Fatou Diome are globally important writers in the realist tradition, but who are their predecessors, formally?  Along with postcolonial studies, African literary studies has overemphasized modernist form at the expense of reading for realism. I argue for the aesthetic, intellectual, and political value of this undervalued narrative mode, and I hope to show what it looks like in English and French. 

Susan Andrade is a retired Professor of English. She completed her PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan in 1992 with a dissertation entitled “African Fictions and Feminisms: Making History and Remaking Traditions.” At the University of Pittsburg, she taught numerous courses in the fields of world literature, modernism, and postcolonial literature. She brought dozens of new writers—in particular, novelists in translation from the Global South and from Anglophone and Francophone Africa—to classrooms in the English department.

Andrade’s scholarship is highlighted by her monograph The Nation Writ Small: African Fictions and Feminisms, 1958-1988 (Duke University Press, 2011). In this book, Andrade studies, as she explains, “the work of Africa’s first post-independence generation of novelists, explaining why male writers came to be seen as the voice of Africa’s new nation-states, and why African women writers’ commentary on national politics was overlooked.” She turns the focus instead to women novelists and argues that they contested the national political scene through allegorical modes of writing, as the works of both female and male writers such as Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta, Ousmane Sembène, Mariama Bâ, Aminata Sow Fall, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nuruddin Farah, and Assia Djebar all come to reveal. The book received praise from many reviewers. Simon Gikandi wrote, “The Nation Writ Small is a brilliant work, feminist and literary scholarship of the highest order. It is a superb reading of the relationship between gender and nationalism in postcolonial African literature and culture, based on Susan Z. Andrade’s deep knowledge of African texts and cultural politics.” Monica Popescu agreed that “The Nation Writ Small illustrates the enriched forms of literary scholarship that can emerge when we read simultaneously for form and theme while continuously verifying these analytical objects against the historiography of the respective literary tradition.” And Heather Hewett noted that “in her discussion of postindependence fiction (which includes texts published in both English and French), Andrade complicates a dominant story that still widely informs understandings of the development of African fiction.”

Andrade was awarded a Senior Scholar Fulbright-Nehru Award to Christ University in India in 2013 to study one of her abiding interests: realism and its political effects. She was elected the following year as a member of the MLA Executive Division of African Literature post-1900. Across her career, she gave many invited lectures and seminars in many places around the world and in many sites in the U.S.

—Bio copied from Gayle Rogers, University of Pittsburg

Photo: TribLive, 2013