At Penpoint

African Literatures, Postcolonial Studies, and the Cold War

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: September 2020

Author: Monica Popescu

African Studies, Literature and Literary Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In At Penpoint Monica Popescu traces the development of African literature during the second half of the twentieth century to address the intertwined effects of the Cold War and decolonization on literary history. Popescu draws on archival materials from the Soviet-sponsored Afro-Asian Writers Association and the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom alongside considerations of canonical literary works by Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ousmane Sembène, Pepetela, Nadine Gordimer, and others. She outlines how the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union played out in the aesthetic and political debates among African writers and intellectuals. These writers decolonized aesthetic canons even as superpowers attempted to shape African cultural production in ways that would advance their ideological and geopolitical goals. Placing African literature at the crossroads of postcolonial theory and studies of the Cold War, Popescu provides a new reassessment of African literature, aesthetics, and knowledge production.


“This ingenious account offers sharp new insight to the history of African Literary Studies and decolonization by framing them in light of the Cold War, not just in terms of subjection by the West, as stressed by postcolonial perspectives, but also by the colonial outreach of the USSR. As Monica Popescu makes stunningly clear, African and Afro-Caribbean writers of the period—Aimé Césaire, Youssef El-Sebai, and Ezekiel Mphahlele—brought to our understanding of twentieth-century imperialism a comprehensiveness unrivaled before or since.” — Jean Comaroff, Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American studies and of Anthropology, Harvard University

“African nations regained their independence from Western colonialism against the background of the Cold War. Monica Popescu's book is a comprehensive study of the impact of the war on the culture, literature, and intellectual production of the postcolonial world. It is a great addition to the body of scholarship on African literature and postcolonial studies.” — Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Monica Popescu is Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar of African Literatures in the Department of English at McGill University. She is the author of South African Literature beyond the Cold War and The Politics of Violence in Post-communist Films.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. Genres of Cold War Theory: Postcolonial Studies and African Literary Criticism
Part I. African Literary History and the Cold War
1. Pens and Guns: Literary Autonomy, Artistic Commitment, and Secret Sponsorships
2. Aesthetic World-Systems: Mythologies of Modernism and Realism
Part II. Reading through a Cold War Lens
3. Creating Futures, Producing Theory: Strike, Revolution, and the Morning After
4. The Hot Cold War: Rethinking the Global Conflict through Southern Africa
Conclusion. From Postcolonial to World Literature Studies: The Continued Relevance of the Cold War
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0940-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0851-4