2000 P.h.D Program in Literature, Duke University
1993 B.A. Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University
Whoever hasn’t yet arrived at the clear realization that there might
be a greatness existing entirely outside his own sphere and for which he might have absolutely no feeling; whoever hasn’t at least felt ob- scure intimations concerning the approximate location of this greatness in the geography of the human spirit: that person either has no genius in his own sphere, or else he hasn’t been educated yet to the niveau of the classic.
—Friedrich Schlegel, Critical Fragment 36 Modernism and African Literature
This book argues for establishing the interpretive horizon of twentieth-century literature at capitalism’s internal limit. In the classical Marxian conception this limit is the rift between capital and labor, but this rift knows many displacements, the most important of which is the division of the globe between wealthy nations and a much larger and poorer economic periphery. The literary texts primarily considered here come from each side of this divide: British modernism between the world wars, and African literature during the period of the national indepen- dence struggles. The following pages will insist that neither of these two litera- tures—each produced in a period of extraordinary political possibility—can be understood on its own; rather, the full meaning of each only emerges in relation to the other and to the rift, both internal and external, which they each try in different ways to represent.
But what does British modernism have to do with African literature?
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