“David Attwell gives a strikingly fresh and illuminating reading of a century of black South African writing. Lively, probing, theoretically sure-footed, generous in spirit, this book represents the very best of the new wave of South African scholarship and criticism.”
J. M. Coetzee
“The scholarship here is of the highest order, and it is presented in a readable and often gripping style, with factual detail and literary analysis at all times serving the purpose of the larger argument.... This is a richly detailed, theoretically sophisticated, elegantly written, and politically astute study.”
Derek Attridge, Research in African Literatures
“This is a richly detailed, theoretically sophisticated, elegantly written, and politically astute study that deserves a place on the shelves of anyone interested in the culture of South Africa, past or present.”
Derek Attridge, author of The Singularity of Literature
“For those of us who often teach aspects of South African literature, this is the book we have been waiting for.”
Zakes Mda, author of The Whale Caller
Rewriting Modernity: Studies in Black South African Literary History connects the black literary archive in South Africa—from the nineteenth-century writing of Tiyo Soga to Zakes Mda in the twenty-first century—to international postcolonial studies via the theory of transculturation, a position adapted from the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz.
David Attwell provides a welcome complication of the linear black literary history—literature as a reflection of the process of political emancipation—that is so often presented. He focuses on cultural transactions in a series of key moments and argues that black writers in South Africa have used print culture to map themselves onto modernity as contemporary subjects, to negotiate, counteract, reinvent, and recast their positioning within colonialism, apartheid, and the context of democracy.
David Attwell is Chair of Modern Literature (post colonial studies) in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York, United Kingdom. His previous work includes Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews and J. M. Coetzee: South Africa and the Politics of Writing. More info →
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Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart provided the impetus for the foundation of Heinemann’s African Writers Series in 1962 with Achebe as the editorial adviser. Africa Writes Back presents portraits of the leading characters and the many consultants and readers providing reports and advice to new and established writers.
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