The Specter of Authenticity: Discourses of (Post)Colonialism in the African Novels of Nancy Farmer
Languages of publication
Children’s books have always courted controversy, from nineteenth-century debates on the dangers of fairy tales to publications of the last fift y years that have off ered a challenge to the notion of what might be suitable literature for the young. Such a description will not surprise anyone familiar with the ideologically ambivalent or contradictory ideas about childhood that are articulated and negotiated in children’s fiction, and aware of the degree to which children’s writers in general have taken the conflicts and political realities of modern history as their manifest topics. This paper will address controversial subject matter and a source of interest of much contemporary children’s literature, the fictional coverage of familial and postcolonial conflicts, and will question traditional assumptions about children’s literature as an apolitical genre. It proposes that children’s texts are now in a position to envision new modes of response or resistance, challenging the uneven power relations of colonialism. More specifically, it will demonstrate how Farmer’s novels have questioned the dominant discourses that constitute cultural givens yet sometimes straddled the border between subversion and an uneasy complicity. The argument investigates what these texts have to say about colonial histories, relations of colonial power, and the projected futures of postcolonial societies. The African novels of Nancy Farmer, I will argue, raise postcolonial issues with a mix of compliance with and resistance to colonial ideologies.
- Bentley, Nick (ed.) (2005) British Fiction of the 1990s. London: Routledge.
- Bentley, Nick (2007) Radical Fictions: The English Novel in the 1950s. Oxford: Peter Lang.
- Bradford, Clare (2007) Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children’s Literature. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
- Bradford, Clare et al. (2008) New World Orders in Contemporary Children’s Literature: Utopian Transformations. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Clark, Beverly Lyon, Margaret R. Higonnet (1999) Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children’s Literature and Culture. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Farmer, Nancy (1994) The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. New York, NY: Puffin Books.
- Farmer, Nancy (1996) A Girl Named Disaster. New York, NY: Puffin Books.
- Griffiths, Gareth ( 2006) “The Myth of Authenticity.” [In:] Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (eds.) The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Oxford: Routledge; 165–168.
- Jameson, Fredric (1991) Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
- Maddy, Yulisa Amadu, and Donnarae MacCann (2008) Neo-Imperialism in Children’s Literature about Africa: A Study of Contemporary Fiction. New York, NY: Routledge.
- McGillis, Roderick (1997) “Postcolonialism, Children, and their Literature.” [In:] Ariel 28.1; 7-15.
- Nodelman, Perry (1992) “The Other: Orientalism, Colonialism, and Children’s Literature.” [In:] Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 17; 29–35.
- Nodelman, Perry (2008) The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Paul, Lissa ( 2004) “Feminist Criticism: From Sex-Role Stereotyping to Subjectivity.” [In:] Peter Hunt (ed.) International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. London: Routledge; 98–109.
- Pordzik, Ralph (2001) The Quest for Postcolonial Utopia: A Comparative Introduction to the Utopian Novel in the New English Literatures. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
- Reimer, Mavis (2000) “Making Princesses: Re-making A Litt le Princess.” [In:] Roderick McGillis (ed.) Voices of the Other: Children’s Literature and the Postcolonial Context. New York, NY: Garland Publishing; 111–134.
- Reynolds, Kimberley (2007) Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Rollin, Lucy, and Mark I. West ( 2008) Psychoanalytic Responses to Children’s Literature. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
- Rose, Jacqueline (1984) The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction. London: Macmillan.
- Sargent, Lyman Tower (2003) ‘The Problem of the ‘Flawed Utopia’: A Note on the Costs of Eutopia.” [In:] Tom Moylan, and Raffaella Baccolini (eds.) Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination. New York, NY: Routledge; 225–232.
- Su, John J. (2005) Ethics and Nostalgia in the Contemporary Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Upstone, Sara (2009) Spacial Politics in the Postcolonial Novel. Farnham: Ashgate.
- Wilkie-Stibbs, Christine (2002) The Feminine Subject in Children’s Literature. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Yenika-Agbaw, Vivian S. (2008) Representing Africa in Children’s Literature: Old and New Ways of Seeing. New York, NY: Routledge.
Publication order reference