Faculty Bookshelf: Olakunle George

Relocating Agency Modernity and African Letters

Olakunle George


A postmodernist metacritical look at theories of African literature.

Combining a sustained critical engagement of Anglo-American theory with focused close-readings of major African writers, this book performs a long-overdue cross-fertilization of ideas among poststructuralism, postcolonial theory, and African literature. The author examines several influential figures in current theory such as Habermas, Althusser, Laclau and Mouffe, as well as the theorists of postcolonialism, and offers an extended reading of the Nigerian writers D.O. Fagunwa, Wole Soyinka, Amos Tutuola, and Chinua Achebe. He argues that contrary to what the purism and voluntarism common to postcolonial theory might suggest, one lesson of African letters is that significant agency can result from acts that are blind to their determinations. For George, African letters offer an instance of “agency-in-motion,” as opposed to agency in theory.


“…Relocating Agency makes for engaged reading.” — Research in African Literatures

“…The present shining example of postcolonial criticism will be a beacon if not a landmark in the field … The last three chapters have excellent readings of some of the canonical pieces of African literature, including Wale Ogunyemi’s Forest of a Thousand Daemons, Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-wine Drinkard, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman (the reading of this colonial period play is especially good) … Highly recommended.” — CHOICE

“This is an important intellectual work. George’s book operates simultaneously as a nuanced and informed critique of postcolonial theory and as a reading of the ideology of African letters. There is nothing like it available.” — Kenneth W. Warren, The University of Chicago

“Superbly written and argued, this will be the first book that brings African letters into a productive conversation with modernity and postmodern theory. One of the major achievements of this book is its recentering of the tradition of African letters in the making and unmaking of colonial and postcolonial worlds.” — Simon Gikandi, author of Reading the African Novel

“This is one of the most satisfactory works of criticism I have read in awhile. What George has accomplished here has been attempted by very few scholars writing on modern African literature. His arguments are intellectually accessible, as well as stimulating.” — Isidore Okpewho, coeditor of The African Diaspora: African Origins and New World Identities

ISBN: 978-0-7914-5541-8