Bearing Witness

Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology

Book 6
Princeton University Press
Free sample

Greed, frustrated love, traffic jams, infertility, politics, polygamy. These--together with depictions of traditional village life and the impact of colonialism made familiar to Western readers through Chinua Achebe's writing--are the stuff of Nigerian fiction. Bearing Witness examines this varied content and the determined people who, against all odds, write, publish, sell, and read novels in Africa's most populous nation.

Drawing on interviews with Nigeria's writers, publishers, booksellers, and readers, surveys, and a careful reading of close to 500 Nigerian novels--from lightweight romances to literary masterpieces--Wendy Griswold explores how global cultural flows and local conflicts meet in the production and reception of fiction. She argues that Nigerian readers and writers form a reading class that unabashedly believes in progress, rationality, and the slow-but-inevitable rise of a reading culture. But they do so within a society that does not support their assumptions and does not trust literature, making them modernists in a country that is simultaneously premodern and postmodern.


Without privacy, reliable electricity, political freedom, or even social toleration of bookworms, these Nigerians write and read political satires, formula romances, war stories, complex gender fiction, blood-and-sex crime capers, nostalgic portraits of village life, and profound explorations of how decent people get by amid urban chaos. Bearing Witness is an inventive and moving work of cultural sociology that may be the most comprehensive sociological analysis of a literary system ever written.

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About the author

Wendy Griswold is joint Professor of Sociology and English and Comparative Literature at Northwestern University. She is the author of Renaissance Revivals: City Comedy and Revenge Tragedy in the London Theatre, 1576-1980 and Cultures and Societies in a Changing World as well as coeditor of Literature and Social Practice and Places within, places beyond: the question of Norwegian regionalism in literature.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 5, 2018
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Pages
340
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ISBN
9780691186306
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / African
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Keller reveals the community of Twin Rivers through a multidimensional social microscope, having monitored the community from the day it opened by participant observation, attitude surveys, the study of collective records, and nearly 1,000 in-depth interviews with homeowners. She offers fascinating insight into how residents maintain privacy, relate to neighbors, cope with social conflict, and develop ideas about the common good. She shows that Twin Rivers residents remain hopeful about the possibility of community despite variable success in achieving their desires. Indeed, she argues that the hard-won experience, more than the utopian ideal, is the true measure of community.


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