Less Than One and Double: A Feminist Reading of African Women's Writing

Article excerpt

Kenneth W. Harrow. Less Than One and Double: A Feminist Reading of African Women's Writing. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 2002. xxvi + 333 pp. Bibliography. Index. $69.00. Cloth. $27.00. Paper.

Kenneth W. Harrow is a scholar whose interest in Africa began in 1973 and continued through his studies of the Maghreb and Islam. He has written Faces of Islam in African Literature (Heinemann, 1991) and Thresholds of Change in African Literature (Heinemann, 1994). His latest book is provocative and probing. Admirers of his previous work will greet it avidly, and he may win new readers as well.

The terrain of Less Than One and Double is almost as broad as the Maghreb. Harrow strides through it demonstrating his extensive knowledge of African women's literature, African cinema, and radical postmodern feminism. His prose is as measured, incisive, and confident as one would expect from a senior scholar, even as he takes intellectual risks. His pre-emptive response to those who might read his methodologies and theorizing as an example of European and Euro-American attempts at hegemony over African culture demonstrates an apt use of metaphor:

It seems fair to me that in her readings of African women's writings, Irene d'Almeida, as an African, will seek the intimacy of a discussion entre soeurs, whereas Odile Cazenave, as a Frenchwoman, will seek the more formal structure of a rational analysis. I, too, like Cazenave, will assume the more modest claims of one familiar with the house, as it were, but not born into its secrets and inner chambers. (42 n.1)

Deft as this strategic move is, it disturbs me. Not only has he attached rationality to the Frenchwoman, he has also consigned writers of African descent to his bibliography, footnotes, and index. …