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the Complete Review
the complete review - lectures


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

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To purchase Globalectics

Title: Globalectics
Author: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (2012)
Length: 85 pages
Availability: Globalectics - US
Globalectics - UK
Globalectics - Canada
Globalettica - Italia
  • Theory and the Politics of Knowing
  • The 2010 Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory

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Our Assessment:

B : tight discussion; some interesting thoughts

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 28/11/2011 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "In an ever-shrinking world, this book demonstrates the need to understand the similarities and differences in the stories we tell each other." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Globalectics collects Ngũgĩ's 2010 Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory, in which he looks both back and ahead at how literature is presented and passed on (including taught), and the consequences. He begins by recalling how in the late 1960s, after he had returned to Kenya from Leeds University and joined the faculty of the English Department at the University of Nairobi, he, Taban lo Liyong, and Henry Owuor Anyumba called for the abolition of that department.
       His major objection was and is that privileging 'English literature' was wrong; he complains of what he had to read for his studies, little of which resonated with his own background and experience -- or the literature (in the broadest sense of the meaning) that existed outside the academy (a school- and university-system still rooted hopelessly in the colonial system that introduced it). It was his experience that:

The very order of knowledge, what is included and left out of the curriculum, reinforced the view that Europe was the center of the universe.
       The postcolonial world has -- or tends towards -- broader horizons; nevertheless, all is not yet rosy:
     World literature is here; unfortunately, it has not meant the end of national one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness.
       Ngũgĩ's call is for a new dialectic:
     Reading globalectically is a way of approaching any text from whatever times and places to allow its content and themes form a free conversation with other texts of one's time and place, the better to make it yield its maximum to the human. It is to allow it to speak to our own cultural present even as we speak to it from our own cultural present. It is to read the text with the eyes of the world; it is to see the world with the eyes of the text.
       Ngũgĩ's gist (and enthusiasm) come across readily enough, even if remains rather more of an idealized vision of reading than an in (m)any ways readily applicable one.
       (The last section/lecture of the book makes the case for the oral alongside the written, though quotes such as the above suggest a bit closer attention to the final written form (including some closer (copy)editing ...) would help make the case better .....)
       Ngũgĩ's belief in the power and value of literature is inspiring, and his idealized conviction certainly has its appeal:
     Works of imagination are amazingly antinational even where the author may think he or she is espousing national themes. People identify with a good tale and the characters irrespective of the tale's region of origins. Like a mirror or a camera, a work of art may reveal more than consciously intended. Works of imagination refuse to be bound within national geographies; they leap out of nationalist prisons and find welcoming fans outside the geographic walls. But they can also encounter others who want to put them back within the walls, as if they were criminals on the loose.
       Informed by his own background, Globalectics presents both theory and personal history, in a fairly winning combination. Theory, in particular, could do with more (and more careful) explication -- as could the occasional bold claim ("the most Marxist writers of all, V.S.Naipaul and Ralph Ellison") -- as the origins of these pieces as lectures is all too evident, but its suggestion of the possibilities of postcolonial literature (and also its call not to neglect the oral tradition) make it a small volume of some interest.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 April 2012

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Globalectics: Reviews: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o: Other books by Ngugi wa Thiong'o under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Kenyan author (James) Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o was born in 1938.

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