Contemporary Literary Criticism: Volume 381, published July 10, features entries on writers Zaynab Alkali, Maurice Blanchot, and Alice Walker’s Meridian. Check out a preview of these entries’ opening passages below.
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(Born Zaynab Tura-Mazila) Nigerian novelist and short story writer.
Zaynab Alkali is the author of novels and short stories that explore the role of women in traditional Muslim societies. Her characters strive to achieve their own vision of independence, whether by pursuing an education or insisting that their marriages be equal partnerships. Alkali also addresses the values of African and Islamic societies, in which loyalty to kin and community is espoused as a particular virtue. Given the feminist message of Alkali’s work, a significant amount of criticism of her writings addresses issues of gender, religion, and the oppressions of a patriarchal society. Scholars have particularly noted her portrayal of women who are struggling to develop a place within a traditional society yet do not remain at odds with that society and approach their task with both humility and determination. Many critics have found a difference from Western feminism in her approach to achieving social change while preserving a cohesive society.
(Read the full 32-page entry on Zaynab Alkali in CLC 381. The academic advisor to this entry is Kanchana Ugbabe from the University of Jos in Nigeria)
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(Born Maurice Leon Alexandre Blanchot) French critic, novelist, novella and short-story writer, and essayist.
The following entry provides criticism of Blanchot’s life and works. For additional information about Blanchot, see CLC, Volume 135.
Maurice Blanchot was a literary theorist best known for writing that combines elements of fiction, criticism, and philosophy. His work L’espace littéraire (1955; published as The Space of Literature) is noted for conceptualizing writing as a silent, solitary activity concerned with the erasure of authorship and identity. Blanchot also wrote novels, short stories, and récits—novella-length prose works that blend fragmented fictional narratives and philosophical meditation. Blanchot began his writing career as a rightwing journalist, but his experience during World War II led him to abandon public life and adopt a more subdued style.
His later works—including L’entretien infini (1969; published as The Infinite Conversation), Le pas au-delà (1973; published as The Step Not Beyond), and L’ecriture du désastre (1980; published as The Writing of the Disaster)—reflect the attitude, expressed most famously by German philosopher Theodor Adorno, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Scholars associate Blanchot with the development of poststructuralism in France, and such prominent theorists of the movement as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault have appropriated aspects of his writing and thought in their work. Long familiar to French audiences, Blanchot was largely unknown to English readers until the 1980s, when translations of his philosophical texts began to appear.
(Read the full 141-page entry on Maurice Blanchot in CLC 381. The academic advisor to this entry is Kevin Hart from the University of Virginia)
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American novelist, poet, short-story writer, and essayist.
The following entry provides criticism of Walker’s novel Meridian (1976). For additional information about Walker, see CLC, Volumes 5, 6, 9, 19, 27, 46, 58, 103, and 319; for additional information about Walker’s novel The Color Purple, see CLC, Volume 167.
The second novel by Alice Walker (1944- ), Meridian articulates a feminist critique of the civil-rights and Black Nationalist movements of the 1960s, demonstrating the disempowerment and subordination of women active in the cause for racial justice. Meridian has been described as a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age narrative. The novel’s protagonist, Meridian Hill, is a sensitive and intelligent woman who is deeply committed to the fight against racial inequality. Nevertheless, she finds that many of the activist communities she attempts to join constrain her in intolerable ways. Meridian questions the ethics of the means used by some antiracist activists and shows that prejudice can thrive even in progressive social movements. For Meridian, true freedom is not possible without a complete reexamination of the social structures of privilege. Using a nonlinear structure to depict her story of black womanhood, Walker creates a deliberately disorienting experience for the reader.
(Read the full –page entry on Meridian by Alice Walker in CLC 381. The academic advisor to this entry is Nagueyalti Warren from Emory University)