Chapter 10 Emotional Nationalism in the New Nigerian Novel

In: Nationalism and the Postcolonial
Hannah Pardey
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Combining narratological and literary-sociological approaches, this contribution reads two historical novels by contemporary Nigerian authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) and Helon Habila’s Measuring Time (2007), alongside a selected sample of online reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to interrogate how the digital age redefines Benedict Anderson’s notion of imagined communities. The chapter argues that the two novels create an affective online community of international readers whose empathetic but distanced compassion with others promises belonging to global capitalist market structures. A close reading of the two novels illustrates that they negotiate the online reviewers’ attempts at turning social media platforms into public arenas of bourgeois self-fashioning by employing representational techniques that emotionalize national conflict. Framed as a textual strategy, the novels’ ‘emotional nationalism’ manifests in the two aesthetic principles of allegorical and disenchanted realism. While Adichie represents national turmoil through metaphors of middle-class domesticity and progress, Habila disenchants the magical realism of national narratives by first- and second-generation Nigerian authors. The chapter argues that both realist strategies encourage affective modes of knowledge about the postcolonial nation and thereby invite global audiences to think about themselves in terms of a shared social formation.

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