Challenging most Western approaches to the interpretation of African texts, cultures, and histories, Donald Wehrs offers detailed readings of six novels to suggest that the feminism of the heroines, the logic of the plots, and even the very language of the narrators in these fictions rest upon conceptual and moral vocabularies drawn from indigenous African sources. Wehrs argues that these novelists, and the Islamic and indigenous African discourses they draw upon, conceive of the ethical in terms closer to those of the European Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas than to any of the moral theorizing - from Hobbes to Derrida and Foucault - characteristic of the modern West. He maintains that two of the authors he examines attempt to articulate a version of feminish that is consistent with principles of Islamic piety. Indeed, he continues, the feminism of all six novels ultimately rests upon an understanding of ethics that is radically at odds with the mainstream of contemporary literary theory. He proposes a reading that gives indigenous African writers a voice to ""answer back"" to the modern West without recourse to either nativism or abstraction, an approach to and an appreciation of African feminist fiction that overcomes major impasses in postcolonial theory. Beyond that, this book casts new light upon related issues of interest in women's studies, feminist theory, theories of the novel, cultural studies, and ethical philosophy.
Donald R. Wehrs, associate professor of English at Auburn University, has written on African fiction in Modern Language Notes and on Levinas and literature in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation.