African pasts

Memory and history in African literatures

Author: Tim Woods

This book provides a combination of critical argument about those central debates within African literary studies, alongside a focus on individual texts and writers that are central to the study of African literatures. It investigates how certain versions of the past get to be remembered, which memories are privileged and what the loci are for memory within the context of African literatures. The book establishes the main debates about African writing in relation to modernism and traditionalism, history and the present, trauma and the ethics of historical representation, and theories of memory as a challenge to the discourses of historiography and ethnography. In these respects, the book first focuses upon memory as a discourse in African writing, emerging as a product of discourse in the ways it operates in private and public life. It then explores how memory is socially and historically constituted within differing African contexts. The book also interrogates the invocation of memory within a number of other discourses (political, historical, ethical, autobiographical, gender, ethnic), enquiring how memory is called upon to legitimate identity, construct or reconstruct it. It further explores how memory is narratively organized, and the ways in which narrative is related to other cultural forms of remembering.

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