Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2014

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Comparative Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



While the idea of the nation and national identity is often taken as the starting point for examinations of the African state, this dissertation explores the transnational dimensions of the African novel and the way in which English-language writers from Africa imagine a state that more adequately captures their desire to freely inhabit a global literary marketplace. Although critics of the Anglophone African novel tend to understand the fictional state as an object of unremitting political critique (often simply as a reflection of its real-world counterpart), the African state, when viewed through the methodological lens of narrative form, becomes the distinct site of a global liberal identity grounded in a commitment to individual freedom, unfettered creativity, and humanist notions of progress. The new African novel purposefully allies itself with transnational and individualistic forms of self-identification. Pointing up the formal resonances between an earlier, politically committed, generation of African writers (Chinua Achebe and Ayi Kwei Armah) and their contemporary counterparts (Chris Abani, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Aminatta Forna, and Nuruddin Farah), I demonstrate that literary form functions as the primary nexus of the latter's engagement with the idea of the state--both how to define it and what it could look like. Although the nation-building work of an earlier generation of writers inflects that of their literary descendants, such textual reciprocity also allows the African novel to foster ways of thinking about writers' relationship to a global audience and an increasingly migratory authorial identity that is, perhaps surprisingly, in step with the liberatory ideals of an imagined America.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

J. Dillon Brown

Committee Members

Seth Graebner, Jean Allman, Nancy Berg, Ignacio Infante, Joya Uraizee


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