Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana

Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana

Stephanie Newell
Distribution: Canada, Philippines and USA and its dependencies
Publication date: 08/30/2002
Format: Paperback 11 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21526-0
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... a book that will break new ground in African cultural studies.... [it] will appeal not only to literary scholars but also to social historians and cultural anthropologists." —Karin Barber

Focusing on the broad educational aims of the colonial administration and missionary societies, Stephanie Newell draws on newspaper archives, early unofficial texts, and popular sources to uncover how Africans used literacy to carve out new cultural, social, and economic spaces for themselves. Newly literate Africans not only shaped literary tastes in colonial Africa but also influenced how and where English was spoken; established standards for representations of gender, identity, and morality; and created networks for African literary production, dissemination, and reception throughout British West Africa. Newell reveals literacy and reading as powerful social forces that quickly moved beyond the missionary agenda and colonial regulation. A fascinating literary, social, and cultural history of colonial Ghana, Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana sheds new light on understandings of the African colonial experience and the development of postcolonial cultures in West Africa.

Author Bio

Stephanie Newell lectures in Postcolonial Literature in the English Department at Trinity College, Dublin. She is author of Ghanaian Popular Fiction (Currey; Ohio, 2000), and editor of Readings in African Popular Fiction (IUP).


“". . . a book that will break new ground in African cultural studies. . . . [it] will appeal not only to literary scholars but also to social historians and cultural anthropologists." —Karin Barber " . . . conceptually innovative, and promises to be a very important contribution to African and Postcolonial studies as a whole." —Lyn Innes Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana offers a unique perspective on who was reading in English in colonial Ghana, what they were reading, and what values were associated with literacy, reading practices, and reading cultures.”

“By digging into the roots of Ghana's literary culture, and especially by tracing their growth within the rich soil of shifting gender and status relations, Newell reveals how much more satisfying and multidimensional our grasp of modern African history can become.”
 — International Journal of African Historical Studies

“A prolific writer on African literature, Newell (African studies, Cambridge Univ., UK) offers rich insights into the changing educational values of mission societies and the administration in colonial Ghana. Using government, newspaper, and mission archives, she argues that literate Africans used a wide variety of English-language texts, both foreign and domestic, to meet their own needs and help set standards for Ghanaian English, to develop an indigenous set of aesthetic values, and to shape new moral principles. Although she devotes chapters to several well-known colonial writers—e.g., Casely Hayford and Kobina Sekyi—she emphasizes the cultural influence of nonelite readers who began to emerge in the 1920s. Her discussion of these early readers (mostly young men) and how they formed literary social clubs patterned after elite literary clubs established by the first generation of professional elites around the turn of the 20th century is one of the highlights of the book. A follow up to the author's Ghanaian Popular Fiction (2000), which examined Ghanaian popular fiction since the 1930s, this book brings new perspectives to readers' understanding of the dynamics of colonial literary history and its influence on postcolonial Ghanaian culture. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic collections; large public collections.March 2003”
 — C. Pike, University of Minnesota

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

Introduction: The Formation of Readerships
1. "Paracolonial" Networks: The Rise of Literary and Debating Societies in Colonial Ghana
2. "Are Women Worse than Men?": Literary Clubs and the Expression of New Masculinities
3. The "Problem" of Literacy: "Good" and "Bad" Literature for African Readers
4. Why Read The Sorrows of Satan?: Marie Corelli's West African Readerships
5. "The Whole Library in a Pocket Handkerchief": Creative Writing in the Vernaculars
6. Ethical Fiction: Casely Hayford's Ethiopia Unbound
7. "Been-Tos" and "Never-Beens": Kobina Sekyi's Satires of Fante Society
8. White Cargoes/Black Cargoes on the West Coast of Africa: Mabel Dove's A Woman in Jade
9. R. E. Obeng's Eighteenpence: The First Ghanaian Novel?
Conclusion: The Production of an African Aesthetic