Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

"Landscape Metaphysics: Narrative Architecture and the Focalisation of the Environment." English Studies, vol. 99, no. 4 (Special Issue: Ecocriticism and Narrative Theory), 2018, pp. 398–411.

Abstract: In this article I place landscape at the crossroads of narrative theory and ecocriticism. In particular, I argue that landscape description has an ekphrastic status in narrative that goes beyond simply “setting the scene” within which a story plays out. Instead, I suggest that landscape is the peculiar way in which narrative description focalizes the mere fact of setting into a total context of meaning—a virtual world organized around a particular subject. I therefore claim that landscape description may play a more complex role in a narrative than narrative scholars and ecocritics currently recognize, as the former tend to subordinate spatial concerns to temporal ones, while the latter tend to extol the virtues of place-based description rather than belabor the limits of representation. 

"Regionalizing the Planet: Horizons of the Introverted Novel at World Literature's End." PMLA, vol. 131, no. 5, October 2016, pp. 1299–1315.

Abstract: “World literature” will always fail because there is no such thing as the world. I draw on speculative realism to elaborate how all formations of a single world literature stem from problematic world concepts (particularly “the globe”) that write certain literary traditions out of the world. Using Gayatri Spivak’s concept of the planetary, I move toward a mode of reading that attends to how individual texts regionalize the planet vis-à-vis their own centers of production. Instead of imagining a single world sectioned into center and periphery, this method recognizes that, far from dwelling on their own marginalization within the global economy, all localities (and literatures) posit themselves as center and regionalize outward from this center. Reading for regionalization pluralizes the possibilities of literary worlding. This practice requires us to understand and to honor the formal character of introversion, which I theorize through the case of the Swahili novel.

"Revolutionary Temporality and Modernist Politics of Form: Reading Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Reading Joseph Conrad." Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 38, no. 3, Spring 2015, pp. 38–55.

Abstract: This article challenges received wisdom regarding the politics of intertextuality between Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat and the novel it rewrites, Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes. Instead of reading strictly for their “political” themes of betrayal and disenchantment, as most critics have done, I develop a politics of form by examining the novels’ formal rendering of what I call the “temporality of revolution”: a contradictory flux that ejects the subject from a stable experience of time. I demonstrate how Ngũgĩ’s re-reading of Conradian modernism takes a more radical position that pluralizes narrative structure, shifting the locus of revolutionary crisis from private, individual experience to the public domain.

Book Chapter

"Wole Soyinka." An invited contribution for volume 4 of the Wiley–Blackwell Companion to World Literature, with Ken Seigneurie as general editor and Frieda Ekotto as volume editor. Forthcoming in 2019.

Abstract: I begin this essay by revisiting the debates about authenticity that surrounded the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka’s reception in the 1960s. These debates centered on Soyinka’s unwillingness to merge his politics with his art, and they flared up following his public rejection of Negritude. Whereas many African writers and critics felt that Soyinka’s rejection revealed his European sympathies, I emphasize the philosophical grounds of his rejection. I proceed by arguing that Soyinka’s concept of “the African world” radically revises Negritude’s logic and provides an alternative framework for African self-apprehension. By the mid-1970s, this alternative framework had become central to Soyinka’s theoretical and literary output. I underscore this centrality through brief readings of two works: Myth, Literature and the African World and Death and the King’s Horseman. I conclude with an alternative mode of reckoning Soyinka’s status in world literature that derives from the writer’s notion of “the African world.”

Book Review

Review of The Swahili Novel: Challenging the Idea of "Minor Literature" by Xavier Garnier, translated by Rémi Tchokothe Armand and Frances Kennett. Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, vol. 3, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 402–404.

Other Writing

“Voices from the Aftermath: Reflections on Dorothée Munyaneza’s Unwanted.” Discursive Impulse, October 2017. Available here.