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Myth and Modernity in African Literature

Cambridge/Africa Collaborative Programme 2010-2011

Myth and Modernity in African Literature

With support from the Leverhulme Trust and the Isaac Newton Trust

Convened by Dr Chris Warnes

Critics have long recognised the value of African literatures' representation of the mythic and the folkloric. Often, though, this recognition is based on an anthropological approach, where myth is seen as an expression of the premodern or precolonial. Not enough attention has been paid to the ways in which myth, through literature, can serve as a vital ingredient in the construction of the modern in Africa. Myth, legend, folklore, and appropriations from the oral tradition frequently serve to embed the imaginary in the historical, to anchor texts within communities, to allow writers to negotiate their places within a nascent African modernity. The theme of the 2010-2011 Fellowship programme will allow scholars to explore these and other issues related to the persistence of myth in African literatures, and to consider in detail their implications for our sense of Africa in the twenty-first century.

Elected Fellows

Dr Tunde Awosanmi
Theatre Arts Department, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Modernity and the Mythic Complex: African Dramatists’ Imaginative Duality

Dr Eiman El-Nour
English Language Unit, Al-Ahfadin University for Women, Omdurman, Sudan
Myth and Identity construction in Modern Conflict Situations: A comparative Analysis for the Fiction of Tayeb Salih and Francis Deng

Dr Oyeniyi Okunoye
Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ilfe-Ilfe, Nigeria
Ewì; Myth, Modernity and the Making of a Pan-Yorùbá Poetic Gentre

Dr Kenneth Simala
Department of Language and Literature Education, Masinde Muliro University, Kakamega, Kenya
Beyond simple Mythology to complex Modernity; the Fumo Liyongo Legend as Metaphor of Civilisations in Dialogue

Tar James Tsaioor
School of Media and Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria
The Mythic Imagination in the African Novel; Mahfouz, Ngugi, Armah and Okri as Paradigms

Myth and Modernity in African Literature: A Workshop

St John’s College, School of Pythagoras, CB2 1TP

Friday 11 March 2011, 2.00 - 6.00pm


Introduction: Dr Christopher Warnes (Faculty of English, University of Cambridge), Myth and Modernity in African Literature

  • Eiman El-Nour (Al-Ahfadin University for Women, Sudan), The Owl of Modernity: Creating the Myth of an Absent Homeland
  • Tunde Awosanmi (University of Ibadan, Nigeria), Modernity, African Drama and the Mythic Complex
  • Kenneth Simala (Masinde Muliro University, Kenya), Beyond Simple Mythology to Complex Modernity: The Liyongo Epic as Metaphor of Civilizations in Dialogue
  • Dr Oyeniyi Okunoye (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria), ‘The king does not kill the singer’: Proverbial Authority and Poetic Licence in the Poetry of Lánréwájú Adépòjù and Kúnlé Ológundúdú

Discussion, wine reception

Myth and Modernity, 2011

Myth and Modernity in African Literature Conference, 24-26 August, 2011

Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria

Jointly organised by the Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge, UK and School of Media and Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria

The conveners, Dr. Chris Warnes of the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, and Dr. James Tar Tsaaior of the School of Media and Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria invite abstracts and panel proposals around the theme of the conference with the following sub-themes:

Myth and Modernity, 2011

  • Myth in Africa, Africa in myth: theoretical issues
  • Myth of modernity, modernity of myth in a glocalised order
  • Interfaces of myth and the oral arts in modern Africa
  • Myth, modernity and the construction of nationhood in Africa
  • Myth, modernity and the idea of Africa
  • Myth, modernity and the popular imagination in Africa
  • Media constructions of myth and the modern in Africa
  • Mythic (Mis)Representations of gender/sexuality in African literature
  • African literature and the myth of identity
  • Politics of Be/Longing: the myth of race/ethnicity in Africa
  • Religion and the mythic imagination in Africa
  • Myth, modernity and the written traditions
  • Appropriations of myth in new media technologies in Africa
  • Myth and African Epistemologies
  • Myth and the Institution