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Editor: M. Keith Booker, University of Arkansas
October 2010 · 1 volume · 336 pages · 6"x9"
Outstanding, in-depth scholarship by renowned literary critics. A great starting point for students seeking an introduction to Things Fall Apart and the critical discussions surrounding it.
Chinua Achebe put African literature on the map with his first novel, Things Fall Apart. Frustrated with Western novelists' depictions of Africa as a dark, savage continent, Achebe set out to write a complex, thoughtful novel, one that would counter Western stereotypes and give Africans a story with in which they could recognize themselves. Taking its title from a line in W. B. Yeats's poem "The Second Coming," about the cultural dissipation of postwar Europe, Things Fall Apart recounts the tragic life of an Igbo warrior and the collapse of his society with the encroachment of colonialization. It became an international success not long after its 1958 publication and has since exerted a tremendous influence over other African writers who, like Achebe, have sought to re-create African life in fiction.
This volume in the Critical Insights series, edited and with an introduction by M. Keith Booker, James E. and Ellen Wadley Roper Professor of English at the University of Arkansas, brings together a wide variety of criticism on Achebe's seminal novel. In the opening section of the volume, Booker's introduction reflects on Achebe's pioneering achievement, and Petrina Crockford, writing for The Paris Review, evaluates the enduring, international popularity of Things Fall Apart. A brief biography of Achebe contextualizes the novel within his life and the course of his career.
For readers studying Things Fall Apart for the first time, a quartet of introductory essays provide a framework for in-depth study. Joseph McLaren describes the culture of precolonial Nigeria and the arrival of British colonialists to the region as well as the literary and political movements that surrounded Achebe as he was writing his novel. Amy Sickels surveys the major trends in criticism of Things Fall Apart. Thomas Jay Lynn discusses Achebe's masterful use of language, and Matthew J. Bolton compares Things Fall Apart to major literary works within the Western cannon, such as the Odyssey, the Iliad, and the works of Yeats, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot.
The volume continues with a selection of classic and contemporary criticism of the novel. Margaret Laurence and M. Keith Booker offer overviews of the novel, and David Cook describes the novel's portrayal of colonialization's effects on the Igbo. David Hoegberg and Carey Snyder attend to cultural violence in both the novel and readers' responses to it, and B. Eugene McCarthy and Richard Begam discuss Achebe's narrative strategies. Biodun Jeyifo and Ada Uzoamaka Azodo address how gender is depicted in Things Fall Apart, and Patrick C. Nnoromele and Alan R Friesen consider whether Achebe's protagonist, Okonkwo, can be cast as a tragic hero.
For readers wishing to study the novel in even greater detail, a chronology of Achebe's life, a list of his major works, and a bibliography of helpful resources round out the volume.