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Writing the Story of Kenya

Construction of Identity in the Novels of Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

Petra Bittner

New historicism has profoundly altered the way historiography is perceived by academics as well as the public and novelists have seized the resultant opportunity to render historical events through their artistic lenses. This book analyses the oeuvre of the British-born, Kenyan novelist Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, one of the best-known Kenyan writers today. Macgoye’s work traces Kenya’s recent history and the nation building process, transcending cultural and literary categories. Part of her achievement is the advancement of a new concept of identity, which rejects an essentialist model. Bittner shows how Macgoye amalgamates different literary genres, creating the story of Kenya in an effort to forge a national identity among members of this young state. Using analytical tools provided by post-colonial as well as Western theory and adapting them to the specificities of the Kenyan context, Bittner’s study proposes original parameters through which Macgoye’s work can be interpreted. These criteria permit a new reading of identity in the post-colonial national context and open up avenues of investigation for the still evolving field of East African literature.
Contents: Post-Colonial Literature: Intersection of History, Identity and Writing – Literary Representation of Individuality and Collectivity in the Post-Colonial Context – East African Literature and Literary Criticism – National Literature – Nation Building in the African Context – The Kenyan Nation – Migration Literature.