Student Encyclopedia of African Literature

Student Encyclopedia of African Literature

Student Encyclopedia of African Literature

Student Encyclopedia of African Literature


African literature is a vast subject of growing output and interest. Written especially for students, this book selectively surveys the topic in a clear and accessible way. Included are roughly 600 alphabetically arranged entries on writers, genres, and major works. Many entries cite works for further reading, and the volume closes with a selected, general bibliography.

Africa is a land of contrasts and of diverse cultures and traditions. It is also a land of conflict and creativity. The literature of the continent draws upon a fascinating body of oral traditions and lore and also reflects the political turmoil of the modern world. With the increased interest in cultural diversity and the growing centrality of Africa in world politics, African literature is figuring more and more prominently in the curriculum. This book helps students learn about the African literary achievement.

Written expressly for students, this book is far more accessible than other reference works on the subject. Included are nearly 600 alphabetically arranged entries on authors, such as Chinua Achebe, Athol Fugard, Buchi Emecheta, Nadine Gordimer, and Wole Soyinka; major works, such as "Things Fall Apart" and "Petals of Blood"; and individual genres, such as the novel, drama, and poetry. Many entries cite works for further reading, and the volume closes with a selected, general bibliography.


The Student Encyclopedia of African Literature aims to provide an overview of the major authors and works in African literature from the past, and from our contemporary context. In that sense, it is as up-to-date as possible, with many descriptions of current works. It also provides a good sense of the history of African literature—with entries on such important figures as Olaudah Equiano, Olive Schreiner, and Doris Lessing. The Encyclopedia also aims to provide a cultural and social context for the literary works and figures that it details, and to do so includes subject entries on such topics as Apartheid, Feminism and Literature, and War Literature (to name a few). Occasionally these topical entries are subdivided according to geography in order to make the different regional influences clear.

The volume has a total of 598 entries on authors, works, and the above-mentioned subjects. Authors and texts were selected for inclusion based on their relevance to both the history of African literature and the growing scope of this literature in our contemporary context. Topics that have had a major influence on the creation, reading, and understanding of African literature were chosen for the subject entries. Many of the author and subject entries also include critical resources that provide a list of some of the current criticism on the author or subject of note. These resources (sometimes only one or two works) are not available for every author, but are available for most of the subject entries. The individual title entries do not include critical resources. A selected bibliography of critical work on more general themes in African literature is also available at the end of the Encyclopedia.

The Encyclopedia is organized alphabetically, with an alphabetical list of entries preceding the work. There is also a guide to related topics, which subdivides most of the entries into relevant categories such as “Novelists,” “Playwrights,” “Poets,” etc. Topics, titles, or authors who appear throughout the work are rendered in boldface type as cross-references to indicate their existence elsewhere in the Encyclopedia. The authors hope that students are provided with direction and assistance in their reading of African literature through the use of this work. It aims to offer guidance rather than critical commentary, and many of the entries focus on biographical, plotbased, and historical information that will be of use to the student who wishes to research further topics in African literature, or who is merely looking for a place to start his or her reading. The authors also wish to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Resource Council of Canada for their generous financial support of the Student Encyclopedia of African Literature.

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