The Idea of “Third Generation Nigerian Literature”: Conceptualizing Historical Change and Territorial Affiliation in the Contemporary Nigerian Novel



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Research in African Literatures. Volume 44, Issue 4, Pages 15-34.

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Recent critical discourse on Nigerian fiction employs historicizing techniques that categorize texts according to generations, each of which is presumed to share formal and political qualities and represent a distinct stage in national literary development. This essay critiques the prevalent “Third Generation Nigerian Literature” concept by highlighting its reliance on spatio-temporal constructs that fail to account for the complexity of the texts it classifies. Through a close reading of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's I Do Not Come to You by Chance (2009) and Teju Cole's Open City (2011), I show that recent Nigerian novels are shaped around ambivalent spatio-temporal imaginaries that exceed the national-generational framework. Nwaubani's novel explores characters' attempts to establish clear boundaries of ethical affiliation, while Cole's dramatizes imaginative border crossing and cosmopolitan de-centeredness. I show that both are traversed by alternative temporalities and spatialities that deconstruct their dominant frameworks. I therefore suggest that this ambivalence should prompt us to reflect on how our analyses of “Third Generation Nigerian Literature” could be enriched by exploring more multilayered methods of historicization beyond the nation-generational approach.


literary criticism, novels, African literature, written narratives, territories, literary history, cosmopolitanism, internet fraud, temporality