splitting & misrecognition

The African been-to novel was a short-lived phenomenon. Here’s the quick and dirty: From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, African authors including Wole Soyinka, Tayeb Salih, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, and Yambo Ouologuem produced a sub-genre known as been-to novels. In their most paradigmatic form, been-to novels feature a brilliant male student who travels... Continue Reading →

abroadness: three geo-histories

The stuff of being abroad—whether as student, exile, worker, and other categories—is daily-making. In its most iconic form it has involved deaths and graduations and illness and weddings, all of which involve some form of emotional and financial contribution. It has been marked by a duty to care, a desire to affirm attachment through fulfilling... Continue Reading →

No Longer At Ease

Perhaps the difficulty of Chinua Achebe’s simplicity lies in its temporal fractures: Things Fall Apart asks when “things” were ever not apart. Similarly, No Longer At Ease, based on Okonkwo’s descendant, Obi, questions when “ease” was ever possible. In one register, one might say Achebe is the great master of the fractured temporalities that anchor... Continue Reading →

Re-Reading John Keene III

In the final post of this particular installment, I want to mention why these “reading” and “re-reading” posts exist. I learned to “read” as a Christian: to memorize scripture, to return to the same passages over and over again, to learn what some call hermeneutics. I learned that to love God was the same as... Continue Reading →

Re-Reading John Keene II

Hyperbole: I have always found the second section of Annotations the most difficult to read. If one figures Annotations as a sonata—one of several possible forms—one might say the improvisation of the second part is harder to follow. But that’s not quite it. Always is hyperbole as this book entered my life at a very... Continue Reading →

Re-Reading John Keene I

Annotations opens by invoking that most difficult ritual scene of African American letters: I was born. Here is Frederick Douglass: I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it. By far... Continue Reading →

Re-Reading John Keene (Prelude)

Memory, that vast orchard of myriad, variegated moments, appears to undergo an endless replanting. —John Keene Nyumba na riika itiumagwo. —Gikuyu Proverb IF objects could speak from their embeddedness in history, they would surely ventriloquize John Keene. Repeatedly, Annotations attunes us to the “thingness” of the world, our slide in and out of subject hood,... Continue Reading →

Longing for Form

I loved music in high school. So much so that my first year report was set in C Major. Allegro con Vivace By my second year, I had discovered chromatics and minor keys: C#, C#, D, C#, C#, B, C I liked my home key. * O, my gorgeous mentor, asked me why I seemed... Continue Reading →

Reading David Maillu III

I like Okot P’Bitek’s Song of Lawino. It taught me how to enjoy the long poem and led me to other book-length poems by William Carlos Williams (Paterson), Lyn Hejinian (My Life), and M. NourbeSe Philip (Zong!). I am a huge, huge fan of the long poem. Much as Song of Lawino might be understood... Continue Reading →

Countee Cullen and the Harlem Renaissance

As a rule, I try not to blog about my teaching. More specifically, I try not to blog about works I’m teaching in class, because such works form the basis for student papers, and I’d prefer students not be restricted by what I consider interesting or important—despite all our efforts, we know that students still... Continue Reading →

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