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Vernacular Critique, Deleuzo-Guattarian Theory and Cultural Historicism in West African and Southern African Literatures

Rooks, Elinor Victoria (2014) Vernacular Critique, Deleuzo-Guattarian Theory and Cultural Historicism in West African and Southern African Literatures. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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In this thesis I use concepts from Deleuzo-Guattarian theory, combined with a vernacular theoretical understanding, to perform cultural historicist readings of texts that lack clear contextual referents, as I demonstrate with an extended close reading of Amos Tutuola’s problematic classic The Palm-Wine Drinkard; I then demonstrate the approach’s versatility by using it to read a very different text, Bessie Head’s A Question of Power. Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard draws on vernacular theories of the bush common across West Africa, in which the bush is a discursive space for exploring personal and social traumas. Tutuola’s Bush of Ghosts, I argue, engages with the Yoruba Wars, the slave trade, and colonial capitalist development of Nigeria to the mid-twentieth century. I demonstrate not only how Tutuola uses ghosts as critical historical tools, but how he develops a peculiarly open textual space which serves as an alternative and a challenge to developmental trends. From history enacted across ghostly landscape I move to politics as a highly personal nightmare in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power. From communal vernacular theoretical traditions, I move to Head’s ‘schizophrenic’ vernacular theories. I argue that this text speaks to contexts far beyond Head’s personal experience of Apartheid. I read it as a schizohistory of Botswana’s developmental and political history, and as a lament of authoritarian tendencies across Africa a decade after independence. Head combines politics with mysticism, drawing on Hinduism to forge a politics of interconnectedness. Texts like Tutuola’s and Head’s become far more accessible through historicist readings, and these readings become possible once we are equipped with a theoretical vocabulary flexible enough to translate across a wide variety of discursive spheres. The approach I demonstrate encourages and facilitates a more interdisciplinary and contextually-grounded approach to African literature, clarifying formerly obscure texts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Vernacular theory, Deleuze, Guattari, Amos Tutuola, Bessie Head, Medical Humanities, African literature, postcolonial literature, The Palm-Wine Drinkard, A Question of Power, A Thousand Plateaus, Anti Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, schizoanalysis, schizophrenia, bush, orality, Yoruba, Yoruba wars, palm oil, palm wine, slavery, postcolonial, Nigeria, Botswana, Seretse Khama, trypanosomiasis, sleeping sickness, tsetse flies, Sri Ramakrishna
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.651235
Depositing User: Dr Elinor Rooks
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 14:20
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2015 13:48
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9192

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