Scripting Shame in African Literature

BookScripting Shame in African Literature

Scripting Shame in African Literature


March 1st, 2021



Other Formats



Shame is one of the most frequent underlying emotions expressed throughout sub-Saharan African literature, yet studies of such literature almost universally ignore the topic in favour of a focus on the struggle for independence and the postcolonial situation, encompassing a search for individual, national, and ethnic identities and questions of corruption, changing gender roles, and conflicts between so-called tradition and modernity. Shame, however, is not antithetical to these investigations and, in fact, the persistent trope of shame undergirds many of them. This book locates these expressions of shame in sub-Saharan African literature and shows how its diverse literary representations underscore shame’s function as a fulcrum in the mutual constitution of subject and community on the continent. Though shame research is dominated by Western definitions and theories, this study emphasizes the centrality of African conceptions of shame in ways that notions of Western subjectivity dismiss or cannot capture.

"Stephen Bishop’s Scripting Shame is an important and timely addition to the criticism of the African novel, providing a multi-layered theoretical and textual analysis of shame in African literatures."
Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba, University of Winnipeg

'Le titre [...] il a le mérite d’ouvrir un champ d’investigation passionnant, à propos duquel il offre un panorama riche et clairement exposé des études critiques et des textes littéraires, ainsi qu’une bonne mise en perspective des enjeux socio-culturels de la honte.'
'This book [...] has the merit of opening up a fascinating field of investigation, offering a rich and clearly presented panorama of critical studies and literary texts, as well as a good perspective on the socio-cultural issues of shame.'
Marion Ott, Études Littéraires

Author Information

Stephen L. Bishop is an Associate Professor of French and the Director of International Studies Institute at the University of New Mexico.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Preface – Negotiating Shame9
Part I – The Many Faces of Shame13
Chapter 1 – Differentiating Shame(s)15
Shame versus Guilt15
Shame’s Complicated Relation to Humiliation24
Shame and Its Others26
Chapter 2 – Shame in Africa29
The Shameful Absence of Africa29
Akan Shame and Guilt – An African Communal Perspective30
Three African Shames34
Chapter 3 – Fanon’s Shame39
The Shameful of the Earth39
Fanon’s Shameful Guilt46
Chapter 4 – Contemporary Views of Traditional Shame51
Contemporary Research on Shame in Africa51
The Non-event of Contemporary Research on Shame in Africa55
Shame and a Sense of Community60
Doing Shame versus Having Been Shamed62
Traditions of Shame and Shaming63
The Shameful and Shameless Role(s) of Tradition(s)66
Part II – Penned in: Shame in the African Novel73
Chapter 5 – Shaming Colonial Africa75
Strident Shaming90
Religious Shame97
Chapter 6 – More of the Shame in Postcolonial Africa112
Chapter 7 – Women’s Virtue: Engendering Shame125
Chapter 8 – Excess(ive) Shame and Shamelessness164
“Nous ne lisons pas cette saloppe”164
Sony Labou Tansi and the Discourse of Shame176
“Laughing At” versus “Laughing With”192
Chapter 9 – Naming and Shaming Violence and Corruption204
Corrupting Shame220
Chapter 10 – The Shame of Which We Shall Never Now Speak227
Shame’s Epilogue251