Boidun Jeyifo


As quiet as it is kept, the realisation is gaining wide currency in literary circles around the world that the volume of writing now coming from the non-Western, Third World countries far outstrips that emanating from the 'First World'. Moreover, it is also increasingly being recognized that this vast harvest, this cornucopia from the Third World contains some of the most interesting and innovative writing in contemporary literature. Think about it: if, with 'Anglophone', 'Francophone' or 'Lusophone' writing from the non-Western world you include writing in the most prominent literary languages of the Third World say, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Urdu, Gujerati, Swahili and Amharic, you can begin to get a grasp of the shifts in the densities and concentrations of the literary map of the world. But parallel to this phenomenal reconfiguration of the global balance of forces in the production of literature is the view also prevalent throughout the world, that the most penetrating, the most seminal criticism, metacriticism or 'theory' is coming from the metropolitan centres in Europe and America. Just how prevalent this view of a new international division of labour in the world of literature and criticism has become is afforded by a recent short but thought provoking article in no less a publication than The Chronicle of Higher Education, written by W.J.T. Mitchell (April 19, 1989). Mr. Mitchell is a professor of English at the University of Chicago and moreover, is editor of Critical Inquiry, one of the most influential academic journals of contemporary criticism and literary theory in the English-speaking world. Let me quote some salient observations from the article:



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