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Title: Vernacular critique, Deleuzo-Guattarian theory and cultural historicism in West African and Southern African literatures
Author: Rooks, Elinor Victoria
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 768X
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2014
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In this thesis I use concepts from Deleuzo-Guattarian theory, combined with a vernacular theoretical understanding, to perform cultural historicist readings of texts that lack clear contextual referents, as I demonstrate with an extended close reading of Amos Tutuola’s problematic classic The Palm-Wine Drinkard; I then demonstrate the approach’s versatility by using it to read a very different text, Bessie Head’s A Question of Power. Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard draws on vernacular theories of the bush common across West Africa, in which the bush is a discursive space for exploring personal and social traumas. Tutuola’s Bush of Ghosts, I argue, engages with the Yoruba Wars, the slave trade, and colonial capitalist development of Nigeria to the mid-twentieth century. I demonstrate not only how Tutuola uses ghosts as critical historical tools, but how he develops a peculiarly open textual space which serves as an alternative and a challenge to developmental trends. From history enacted across ghostly landscape I move to politics as a highly personal nightmare in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power. From communal vernacular theoretical traditions, I move to Head’s ‘schizophrenic’ vernacular theories. I argue that this text speaks to contexts far beyond Head’s personal experience of Apartheid. I read it as a schizohistory of Botswana’s developmental and political history, and as a lament of authoritarian tendencies across Africa a decade after independence. Head combines politics with mysticism, drawing on Hinduism to forge a politics of interconnectedness. Texts like Tutuola’s and Head’s become far more accessible through historicist readings, and these readings become possible once we are equipped with a theoretical vocabulary flexible enough to translate across a wide variety of discursive spheres. The approach I demonstrate encourages and facilitates a more interdisciplinary and contextually-grounded approach to African literature, clarifying formerly obscure texts.
Supervisor: Nicholls, Brendon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available