Sunday, October 16, 2016

Teaching "The Thing Around Your Neck"

In my African Literature course this semester, one of the works we have been discussing is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck. I have taught Adichie's works before, as I wrote on this blog, but not this collection of stories.  reads like a panoramic survey of modern African Anglophone literature in terms of the themes it covers.

In terms of its themes, The Thing Around Your Neck reads like a panoramic of modern African Anglophone literature. At the same time, it deals with themes common in Adichie's works: life on a Nigerian university campus, which features in Purple Hibiscus; the Nigerian civil war, the focal point of Half of a Yellow Sun; the experiences of Nigerians abroad, which is a key theme in Americanah; as well as corruption in its various guises and manifestations.

Though often dealing with painful themes, such as abuse and alienation, Adichie infuses her stories with humour and sarcasm. The last story in the collection, "The Headstrong Historian," bears the influence of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, moving briskly through the main themes of that novel, while reworking them in various ways.

Adichie's fictional works are notable for their cosmopolitanism; they tend to feature contemporary urbanized Africans for whom the world is indeed a global village. They travel between Africa and the outside world, especially Europe and the USA, and maintain their global networks wherever they are. This is a feature of much contemporary African literature, as can be seen in works I have taught, such as Athol Fugard's Sorrows and Rejoicings, Leila Aboulela's Minaret: A Novel, Doreen Baingana's Tropical Fish: Tales From Entebbe. and Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.

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