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Unwritten Spaces: African Literature and Charismatic Spatiality

  • Author(s): Azubuko-Udah, Comfort
  • Advisor(s): Goyal, Yogita
  • et al.
Abstract

African literature itself tends to be framed monolithically. This tradition of bunching together representational literature of such a large and diverse place is not only reflective of an underlying imperialist gaze, but it also sets the stage for certain stories, landscapes, and even authors, to emerge as synecdoches for the entire continent. The downside of this phenomenon is that many of the spaces and stories that do not prove exceptional suffer a dearth of representation, and their distinctness thus goes unacknowledged and unappreciated. This dissertation explores how the institutional authorities on African literature have historically shaped the field using a barometer of spectacle and charisma, and how this institutional backdrop constructs and reinforces a spectrum of African landscapes, spaces, and stories that favors only the most exceptional objects. This project attends to those places on the African continent which fall in the middle of this spectrum and as such are less likely to find literary or scholarly representation in African texts. This project positions the medial territory between these poles to excavate the presence and function of an ever-present Western gaze in gatekeeping the field of African literature and scholarship. “Unwritten Spaces” intervenes first by narrowing the field a bit and focusing on a single and already richly diverse country, Nigeria.

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