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Literary Criticism Comparative Literature

Long Drums and Cannons

Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952-1966

by (author) Margaret Laurence

edited by Nora Stovel

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2001
Comparative Literature
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2001
    List Price

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Out of print

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Margaret Laurence's Long Drums and Cannons is a fascinating study of African postcolonial writing, written by Laurence after her early years in Africa. Laurence writes that the "most enduring interesting aspect of Nigerian literature is the insights it gives not only into immediate and local dilemmas, but through these, into the human dilemma as a whole." Her comments on the early writings of well-known Nigerian authors-Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Amos Tutuola, and Cyprian Ekwensi-also provide insights into her early African writings and her later Canadian works. She also explores the works of then little-known authors, including Flora Nwapa, Nigeria's first woman novelist, Gabriel Okara, T.M. Aluko, Elechi Amadi, Onuora Nzekwu, and Nkem Nwankwo. This new edition of Long Drums and Cannons, originally published in 1968 and long out of print, also contains Laurence's previously unpublished essay "Tribalism As Us Versus Them,"which provides Laurence's own postscript to her book. A Foreword by her colleague, Douglas Killam, a Preface by Christian Riegel, a new Introduction by Nora Foster Stovel, and a commentary on "Nigerian Literature" by Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah place Laurence's work in a contemporary context. Up-to-date biographies with a list of works for each of the writers, detailed annotations to the original text, and a glossary complete this edition. Long Drums and Cannons is a classic of early postcolonial criticism, of interest to Laurence's wide readership and to anyone interested in African literature. "I am happy to see a reissue of this important book by a great ambassador of literary culture."-Chinua Achebe Nora Foster Stovel, the editor, is Professor of English at the University of Alberta.

About the authors

Margaret Laurence was born in 1926 in Neepawa, Manitoba. She published her first novel, This Side of Jordan (one of several works to be set in Africa), in 1960. The Stone Angel, published in 1964, was her second novel. It was an immediate success, as were her four subsequent Manawaka novels: A Jest of God (which won the 1967 Governor General's Award and was later made into the film Rachel, Rachel), The Fire Dwellers, A Bird in the House, and The Diviners — winner of the 1974 Governor General's Award. In 1971, Laurence was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Remembered also as a peace activist, she died in 1987.

Margaret Laurence's profile page

Nora Foster Stovel is Professor of English at the University of Alberta, where she teaches twentieth-century literature and Canadian women's fiction. She has published books and articles on Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Margaret Drabble, Carol Shields, and Margaret Laurence, most recently Divining Margaret Laurence: A Study of Her Complete Writings.

Nora Stovel's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Anyone interested in writers as well as in writing should applaud the University of Alberta Press's decision to bring out a new edition of Margaret Laurence's Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952-1966. While literary critics are thick on the ground, the chance to see one master novelist analyze the craft of other writers is rare. And the fact that this analysis took place over thirty years ago yet continues to reward readers gives Long Drums and Cannons historical as well as critical interest.Free from jargon, characterized by the habits of the time.enthusiastic, and attentive to the craft of writing, Laurence's selections and her analyses have stood the test of time. The only thing she was totally wrong about was the irrelevance of her book." Research in African Literature

"There is certainly good scholarship in the critical edition that Stovel has put together: its updated biographies and bibliographies; its glossary; its inclusion of Laurence's formerly unpublished essay "Tribalism As Us Versus Them"..."Wendy Schissel

"In one respect it is a unique book. For where else in the field of post-colonial writing could one find an example of a writer from one region of the English-speaking world embarking on a major study of the literature of another?..It seems to me that the interest of Long Drums & Cannons is essentially two-fold: it offers a pioneering study of Nigerian writing - one of the first - over the period of its first flowering (1952-1966) and just before the tragedy of the Biafran War; it is an intelligent, sympathetic introduction for the reader who wishes to know who is important, or potentially so, and what to read." Geoffrey V. Davis, Margaret Laurence Review, Vol. 11

"Good books neither date nor die. The release of the second edition of Long Drums, her remarkable homage to Nigerian literature, is genuine cause for celebration.. Laurence did not need the stiff academicism of the ivory tower to draw attention to the vitalities of a young national literature; it is remarkable how refreshing the book remains for that reason in the new edition.... Her judgments are wise, sane, and happily shorn of the cluttered jargon of a modern literary criticism purporting to be a science." Canadian Journal of African Studies, August 2004

".well written, meticulously researched, and profusely illustrated." Ashley Thomson

"The republication of Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists 1952-1966 again makes available the first detailed analysis of Nigerian literature, and provides scholars with a well-annotated version of the last of the five books based on Laurence's experiences in Africa during the 1950's. Her study holds up remarkably well thirty-three years after its initial publication.. The 2001 edition of Long Drums and Cannons contains close to 150 pages of additional introductory and explanatory material, written by a number of different scholars under the able direction of editor Nora Foster Stovel.. [T]he book's updated biographical and bibliographical sections are invaluable for scholarly readers, as are the annotations, appendices, and commentaries that place Laurence's book into its historical context and compare it to the original typescript. Also fascinating are a paper on tribalism that Laurence delivered in 1969 and an essay by Abdul-Rasheed Na'Allah titled "Nigerian Literature Then and Now."" Wendy Roy, Canadian Literature

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