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Reading, Taste and Postcolonial Studies: Professional and Lay Readers of Things Fall Apart

Lookup NU author(s): Professor James Procter


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This essay seeks to address and account for the central but paradoxically neglected role of reading and readers in postcolonial studies. Focusing closely on recorded book group discussions of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, it pursues a distinction between lay readers and professional readers of postcolonial fiction in order to examine both the specificity and limits of academic reading. Drawing on the work of John Guillory, David Carter, Rita Felski and others, it proposes that much of what currently passes for postcolonial reading might be regarded as a form of what Tony Bennett terms 'really useless knowledge'. Reading here works to secure the political potential of writing in terms of the internal aesthetics of the text itself, rather than literature's conjunctural relations with and uses by different audiences. Finally, and without seeking to privilege lay over professional readings, it asks what professionial postcolonial readers might learn from taking the former more seriously. The paper emerges out of a collaborative AHRC-funded project (2006-2010) looking at readers of postcolonial and diasporic fiction ( During 2007 it recorded book group discussions across the UK, and in specific locations in Africa, India, Canada and the Caribbean.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Procter J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Interventions

Year: 2009

Volume: 11

Issue: 2

Pages: 180-198

ISSN (print): 1369-801X

ISSN (electronic): 1469-929X

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/13698010903053253


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