Academic Journal of Modern Philology vol. 2 (2013)
University of Wrocław
The Specter of Authenticity: Discourses of (Post) Colonialism in the African Novels of Nancy Farmer
Children’s books have always courted controversy, from nineteenth-century debates on the dangers of fairy tales to publications of the last fifty years that have offered 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 fi ction, and aware of the degree to which children’s writers in general have taken the confl icts and political realities of modern history as their manifest topics. This paper will address controversial subject matt er 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 specifi cally, 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.
Keywords: African novel, postcolonialism, fairy tale, children’s tales, discourse in literature.