Theory of African Literature

Implications for Practical Criticism

Chidi Amuta
With a Foreword by Biodun Jeyifo


A classic work that overturns conventional assessments of African literature, offering a unique contribution to literary criticism.
This groundbreaking work, first published in 1989, was one of the first to challenge the conventional critical assessment of African literature, and remains highly influential today.

Amuta's key argument is that African literature can be discussed only within the wider framework of the dismantling of colonial rule and Western hegemony in Africa. In exploring the possibility of a dialectical, alternative critical base, he draws upon both classical Marxist aesthetics and the theories of African culture espoused by Fanon, Cabral and Ngugi. From these explorations, Amuta derives a new language of criticism, which is then applied to works by modern African writers as diverse as Achebe, Ousmane, Agostinho Neto and Dennis Brutus.

Amuta's highly original and innovative approach remains relevant not only for assessing the literature of developing countries, but for Marxist and postcolonial theories of literary criticism more generally. The author's elegance of argument and clarity of exposition makes this a distinguished and lasting contribution to debates around cultural expression in postcolonial Africa.

Author Bio

Chidi Amuta is a Nigerian journalist, intellectual and literary critic. He was previously a senior lecturer in literature and communications at the universities of Ife and Port Harcourt. He is also chaitman of the editorial board for the Nigerian Daily Times.

Biodun Jeyifo is a professor of African and African American studies and of comparative literature at Harvard University. His previous books include Wole Soyinka: Politics, Poetics, Postcolonialism (2004).

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. Ideological Formations in the Criticism of African Literature
  • 2. Traditionalism and the Quest for an African Literary Aesthetic
  • 3. Marxism and African Literature
  • 4. A Dialectical Theory of African Literatures: Categories and Springboards
  • 5. Issues and Problems in African Literature: A Dialectical Revision
  • 6. History and the Dialetics of Narrative in the African Novel
  • 7. Drama and Revolution in Africa
  • 8. Poetry and Liberation Politics in Africa
  • 9. Beyond Decolonization
  • Select Bibliography


‘Amuta’s monograph remains irreplaceable in being the very first systematic attempt to give us a cognitive map of where African literary theory came from.’
Biodun Jeyifo, from the Foreword


Publication Date: 15 June 2017
224 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781786990068
Hardback 2nd Edition: 9781786990686
eBook ePub 2nd Edition: 9781786990037
eBook PDF 2nd Edition: 9781786990044
eBook Kindle 2nd Edition: 9781786990051

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