Ep. 16: Ato Quayson on “Disputatiousness and Unruly Affective Economies: From the Greeks to Chinua Achebe”

Podcast: "Going Public"
2022 Katz Distinguished Lecture
C. R. Grimmer
photograph of Ato Quayson with "Going Public" written over it
Podcast Episode

In this special edition of Going Public: Reimagining the PhD, Danny Hoffman (Jackson School of International Studies) interviews Ato Quayson, 2022 Katz Distinguished Lecture.

They discuss the topic of his lecture, which asks, what is the place of disputatiousness in the history of tragic form and how might it help us to further understand tragedy from the Greeks to African literature? The Greeks give us great examples of disputatiousness: Oedipus vs. Tiresias, Clytemnestra vs. Agamemnon, Medea vs. Jason, Antigone vs. Creon. These disagreements were in response to dramatic historical changes that masked themselves as personal differences. This lecture offers a theory of African and postcolonial tragedy, drawing on historical disputatiousness and its relationship to fraught individual affective economies. Examples draw from different literary traditions and cultures but specifically focus on the rural novels of Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God). 

Ato Quayson is the Jean G. and Morris M. Doyle Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Chair of the Department of English at Stanford. He is the author of Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature published in 2021, and Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (2014). He is editor of several books, including The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel (2015), and he is host of the YouTube series Critic.Reading.Writing. Professor Quayson is an elected member of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, and the British Academy.

The 2023-2024 season of Going Public features select Katz Distinguished Lectures from our archive. Learn more about the lecture series and peruse the archive:


Episode Transcript