African Languages and Societies | English Language and Literature
Should a writer work in a former colonial language or in a vernacular? The language question was one of the great, intractable problems that haunted postcolonial literatures in the twentieth century, but it has since acquired a reputation as a dead end for narrow nationalism.
Focusing on the case of Senegal, Warner investigates the intersection of French and Wolof. Drawing on an under-studied corpus of novels, poetry, and films in both languages, the book traces the emergence of a politics of language from colonization through independence to the era of neoliberal development.
Refusing to see the turn to vernacular languages only as a form of nativism, The Tongue-Tied Imagination argues that the language question opens up a fundamental struggle over the nature and limits of literature itself. Warner reveals how language debates tend to pull in two directions: first, they weave vernacular traditions into the normative patterns of world literature; but second, they create space to imagine how literary culture might be configured otherwise. Drawing on these insights, Warner brilliantly rethinks the terms of world literature and charts a renewed practice of literary comparison.
Tobias Warner is Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Davis.
Warner, Tobias, "The Tongue-Tied Imagination [Table of Contents]" (2019). Literature. 10.