The Nation Writ Small

African Fictions and Feminisms, 1958–1988

The Nation Writ Small

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 1 photograph Published: November 2011

African Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In The Nation Writ Small, Susan Z. Andrade focuses on 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. Since Africa’s early female novelists tended to write about the family, while male authors often explicitly addressed national politics, it was assumed that the women writers were uninterested in the nation and the public sphere. Challenging that notion, Andrade argues that the female authors engaged national politics through allegory. In their work, the family stands for the nation; it is the nation writ small. Interpreting fiction by women, as well as several feminist male authors, she analyzes novels by Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria); novellas by Ousmane Sembène, Mariama Bâ, and Aminata Sow Fall (Senegal); and bildungsromans by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), Nuruddin Farah (Somalia), and Assia Djebar (Algeria). Andrade reveals the influence of Africa’s early women novelists on later generations of female authors, and she highlights the moment when African women began to write about macropolitics explicitly rather than allegorically.


“[The Nation Writ Small] is clearly argued and theoretically ambitious, aiming to place feminist literature (by male and female authors) within the conversation about nationalist politics that dominated the field in the years immediately following independence.” — Eleni Coundouriotis, Research in African Literatures

“In The Nation Writ Small: African Fictions and Feminisms, 1958–1988, Susan Andrade mounts a strong argument for reading African fiction by women (with honourable mention of male feminist authors) along a matrilineal line A phrase of Christopher Ouma’s – “heirs of a new genealogy” (103) – can be taken to sum up this worthwhile collection’s celebration and critical re-evaluation of the Achebean legacy.” — Annie Gagiano, Journal of Postcolonial Writing

“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.” — Heather Hewett,, Women's Review of Books

"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." — Monica Popescu, Novel

"The Nation Writ Small is retrospective feminist literary historiography at its best, and certainly at its most elegant.... Andrade is a must-have for any library with holdings in Africana and comparative literature, and should be essential reading for anybody studying and teaching African literatures. But before this sounds like yet another literary chore: The Nation Writ Small simply makes for great reading." — Christine Matzke, Postcolonial Text

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.” — Simon Gikandi, Princeton University

“Susan Z. Andrade brings new levels of nuance and complexity to bear on issues that have preoccupied, if not obsessed, readers of African women writers: Are they feminist? And are they nationalist? Andrade dismantles these questions, studies their component parts, and reassembles them with finesse and insight.” — Christopher L. Miller, author of The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Susan Z. Andrade is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and the co-editor of Atlantic Cross-Currents/Transatlantiques (Africa World Press, 2001).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. The Joys of Daughterhood: Achebe, Nwapa, Emecheta 44

2. The Loved and the Left: Sembne, Bâ, Sow Fall 71

3. Bildung in Formation and Deformation: Dangarembga and Farah 114

4. Bildung at Its Boundaries: Djebar, Two Ways 165

Conclusion 202

Selected Chronology of African Novels 209

Notes 213

References 239

Index 253
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4921-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4897-9
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