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SHELF LIFE: A Positive View of Africa

By Add Seymour, Jr.

Michael Janis

THE IMAGES OF FAMINE, poverty, disease and war in the African continent are true to life.

But they are only one side of a much larger story, said Michael Janis, assistant professor of English. Janis has written a book titled “Africa After Modernism, Transitions in Literature, Media and Philosophy,” published by Routledge Press, to give a broader and more colorful picture of the mother continent.

“People only get the crises,” Janis said. “There’s no in-depth reporting, no reporting on cultural events, achievements. These images of violence and trepidation create a one-sided view of Africa. There is a need for greater context.”

As a journalist and educator, Janis has first-hand knowledge of how the African continent has evolved.

“All of the chapters deal with the problems of the exoticism of Africa,” he said. “Africa has been a very complex construction. What I try to do is look in-depth in a literary and philosophical sense. I try to suggest new visions of pan-Africanism that encompass a multi-cultural ethos.”

Janis, an Atlanta native who attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island, has been teaching at Morehouse for five years, focusing on comparative literature, with a 20th century focus on West African, Caribbean and Latin literature along with a West African novel course and literary theory. He also sponsors the Morehouse College African Film Society, hoping to inspire a strong interest among students in the fascinating world of African cinema.

“The latter focuses heavily on 20th century Africana thought—i.e.,Negritude, Pan-Africanism, Africana philosophy,” Janis explained. “This is why the students in both of these upper-level courses (literary theory and West African novel) were always in my thoughts as I wrote the book.”

Janis’ interest in African culture is based in his strong personal ties to the West African area.

“I was married to my wife Andree in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in the Akan tradition,” said Janis. “Our daughters Gabriella and Olivia are American and Ivoirian citizens and are a constant source of inspiration to me.”

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