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African-Language Literatures: Perspectives on IsiZulu Fiction and Popular Black Television Series, by Innocentia Jabulisile Mhlambi

African-Language Literatures: Perspectives on IsiZulu Fiction and Popular Black Television Series, by Innocentia Jabulisile Mhlambi

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African-language writing is in crisis. The conditions under which African writing developed in the past (only remotely similar to those of Western models), resulted in an inability of Eurocentric literary models to explore the hermeneutic world of Africanlanguage poetics inherited from the oral and the modern worlds. Existing modes of criticism in the study of this literary tradition are often unsuited for a nuanced understanding of the intrinsic and extrinsic aspects at play in the composition, production and reading of these literatures.

In African-Language Literatures, Innocentia Jabulisile Mhlambi charts new directions in the study of African-language literatures generally, and isiZulu fiction in particular. She proposes that African popular arts and culture models be considered as a solution to the debates and challenges informing discourses about expressive forms in African languages. Mhlambi shows how this approach brings into relationship the oral and written forms, the local and the international, and elitist and popular genres, and she places the resultant emerging, eclectic culture into its socio-historical context. She then uses this theoretical approach to explore – in a wide range of cultural products – what matters or what is of interest to the people, irrespective of social hierarchies and predispositions. It is the author’s contention that, contrary to common perception, the African-language literary tradition displays diversity, complexity and fluidity, and that this should be seen as an invitation to look at systems of meaning which do not hide their connections with the facts of power and material life.

Innocentia Jabulisile Mhlambi is Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of African Languages at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She teaches African-language literatures, black film studies, popular culture, visual culture and studies in oral literature. She is a judge for the M-NET (a South African television station) literature award in the Nguni category. African-Language Literatures is the recipient of the University of the Witwatersrand’s 2010 University Research Committee (URC) publication award, previous winners of which include Jillian Carman, Ashlee Neser, Anitra Nettleton and Sarah Nuttall. This is her debut publication.

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