"This is a major project that will confirm Wendy Griswold
's status as one of the premier sociologists of literature working today. It is singular in the way it systematizes and enriches our understanding of the context in which literature is produced and how context shapes the content of the work. That Griswold does this for Africa is even more remarkable.... That Nigeria is the most populous African country with one of the most lively literary cultures makes the book even more significant for our understanding of intellectual production in cultural peripheries. This topic is likely to become increasingly important as we become more aware of the impact of globalization processes on national cultures."—Michele Lamont, Princeton University
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.
has a background in both social science and the humanities. She received her doctorate in sociology from Harvard University in 1980 and has a master s degree in English from Duke University. She taught at the University of Chicago from 1981 to 1997, She is the Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. She has been associate editor and book review editor of the American Journal of Sociology and has been on the editorial boards of Contexts, Poetics, and Acta Sociologica. She is on the Advisory Board for the Centro per lo Studio