From the colonial to the post-colonial: Shakespeare and education in Africa

Johnson, David (1998). From the colonial to the post-colonial: Shakespeare and education in Africa. In: Loomba, Ania and Orkin, Martin eds. Post-colonial Shakespeares. London: Routledge, pp. 218–234.



My definitions here of the colonial and post-colonial are historical, rather than in terms of changing fashions in literary criticism. In other words, the colonial Shakespeare I explore is the Shakespeare of the period of colonial rule, and the post-colonial Shakespeare the Shakespeare of the post-colonial period. More precisely, I have chosen the 1930s, the twilight decade of the British Empire, to represent the colonial, and the 1980s, the decade of late capital and globalization, to represent the post-colonial. For both periods, I focus on Shakespeare's journeys to Africa. My versions of the colonial and post-colonial Shakespeares are assembled from representative metropolitan Shakespeare critics, and educational policy-makers for Africa. For the colonial Shakespeare, I accordingly focus on G. Wilson Knight's criticism of The Tempest, and British education policy-maker for Africa, A. Victor Murray. My picture of the post-colonial Shakespeare is based on Stephen Greenblatt's criticism of The Tempest, and World Bank plans for education in Africa.

In focusing thus on the metropolitan mind, I inevitably present an incomplete picture. A more comprehensive study would provide detailed examination of distinct African contexts and their histories, analysis of English school syllabuses, and Shakespeare performances in the different African settings, and instances of African resistance to and appropriations of Shakespeare. In confining my attention in this way, however, my hope is to convey some sense of the wider contexts in which metropolitan productions of the colonial and the post-colonial Shakespeare resonate.

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