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Approaches to Teaching Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Editor(s): Bernth Lindfors

Pages: x & 145 pp.
Published: 1991
ISBN: 9780873525480

The casebound edition of this title is out of print.

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, with sales exceeding three million copies, is one of the most widely read works of contemporary fiction. A classic of African literature, it is taught in college courses ranging from graduate seminars in English and comparative literature to undergraduate offerings in English, history, ethnic studies, anthropology, folklore, and political science; it is also studied in high school literature and social studies classes. Yet teaching such a book presents special problems; Things Fall Apart is rooted in African social and historical realities that are often unfamiliar to North American readers. This collection of essays, all written by experienced teachers, aims to help instructors introduce students to the rich cultural background of the novel as well as to its narrative and structural complexities.

Like other books in the MLA's Approaches to Teaching World Literature series, this volume is divided into two parts. Part 1, "Materials," surveys biographical sources and interviews, background studies, critical commentaries, films based on Things Fall Apart, and other instructional aids. In part 2, "Approaches," sixteen contributors describe strategies they have used to teach Achebe's work. Several essays were solicited from eminent African scholars who, having taught abroad, know firsthand the challenges of conveying cross-cultural understanding through African literature. The volume features an introductory statement by Chinua Achebe, in which he comments on the responses his novel has elicited from readers around the world and offers advice on probing the significance of the story.

Table of Contents

Approaches to Teaching Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Bernth Lindfors


Reference Works
Biographical Sources and Interviews
Igbo Studies
Readings for Students and Teachers
Background Studies: Anthropology, History, Politics, Religion
Critical Commentary
Audiovisual Aids
The Story
The Author



The Author as Teacher

Teaching Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

Teaching the Author

Chinua Achebe and the Signs of the Times
Simon Gikandi

Following the Author in Things Fall Apart
Emmanuel Obiechina

Teaching Context

Things Fall Apart in Its Time and Place
Robert M. Wren

The Igbo as Exceptional Colonial Subjects: Fictionalizing an Abnormal Historical Situation
Dan Izevbaye

Teaching Texture

The Politics of Point of View: Teaching Things Fall Apart
Ashton Nichols

The Paradoxical Characterization of Okonkwo
Arlene A. Elder

Traditional Paradigms and Modern Intertextuality

Matrical Approach to Things Fall Apart: A Poetics of Epic and Mythic Paradigms
Ousseynou B. Traoré

"The Tortoise and the Birds": Strategies of Resistance in Things Fall Apart
Barbara Harlow

Things Fall Apart and the Literature of Empire
Hunt Hawkins

The Third World Novel as Counterhistory: Things Fall Apart and Asturias's Men of Maize
Edna Aizenberg

Challenging Approaches

Making Men and History: Achebe and the Politics of Revisionism
Rhonda Cobham

The Postcolonial African Novel and the Dialogic Imagination
Zohreh T. Sullivan

Narrative, Metacommentary, and Politics in a "Simple" Story
Wahneema Lubiano

The Problem of Realism in Things Fall Apart: A Marxist Exegesis
Biodun Jeyifo

Specific Courses

Teaching Things Fall Apart in the Humanities Core Course
Eric Sellin

Teaching Things Fall Apart in a Criticism Course
Richard K. Priebe

Works Cited


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