[ilds] Bitter Lemons and Academe

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Tue Apr 5 14:40:19 PDT 2016


Hi Bruce,

> I’m not a fan of Achebe

I'll admit that I am, though that doesn't mean that I agree with him on 
everything.  His dispute with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o over language in African 
literature is great to teach, even if one doesn't actually pick a side. 
  I've taught his /Things Fall Apart/ for many years now.

> Regina Martin’s recent article in /PMLA/ suggests,
> Achebe’s charge of Conrad’s “racism” is now
> widely accepted as fact and would seem to have the
> stamp of approval of the Modern Language
> Association.  (Interestingly, Martin does not cite
> Achebe; apparently, she felt no need to reference
> the obvious.)

I'd agree on both points.  It is widely accepted by a section of the 
critical community, and that's also why she doesn't need to refer to it 
directly.  That said, there's certainly still dispute.  If I may suggest 
an older title, Stephen Ross' /Conrad & Empire/ covers this terrain and 
Achebe as well as complex responses by Christ GoGwilt and Andrea White 
(4–5, 187) -- Ross spoke at the Victoria OMG conference, and I'm biased 
toward his reading, but I think it's very well done.  It's in ebrary if 
you have access.

> One of the things I’ve always liked about
> Durrell and his epigraphs ... is how he places
> one foot in the present and another in the past,
> deep time.

I'm in complete agreement on that -- those ties to deep time, allusions 
to passed landscapes and past texts are more than literary gestures.  I 
think they're a call to the outlines of history in our modern lives, 
like the trace or a palimpsest.  I don't think it's a stretch to see the 
same pattern at work in his composition method, the structure of his 
narratives, and the role of both allusion and epigrams.  It strikes me 
as a unified method.

All best,
James


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