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About Chukwuma Azuonye

Chukwuma Azuonye is Professor of African and African Diaspora Literatures and former Chair of the Africana Studies Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston. He received his B.A. in English with First Class Honors (summa cum laude) from the University of Nigeria (1972) and Ph.D. in African Literature with a thesis on the Igbo oral epic from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1980) where he was a Commonwealth Academic Staff Scholar.
A specialist in oral literature and folklore, postcolonial modernist writing, African literary history, and Igbo language and literature, his research explores traditional esthetics and oral literary criticism, African systems of thought, and the interface between orality, literacy and transational modernist poetics.
A literary editor, publisher, book designer, literary consultant, translator, and cultural activist, Professor Azuonye, was at the forefront of the movement of arts which has established Nsukka as a major center of modern Nigerian poetry from the mid-1960’s to 1991. With poetry, short stories and scholarly publications in books and journals in Africa, Europe and the Americas, his awards for research in African oral and modern literature include the Commonwealth Academic Staff Scholarship administered by the British Council (at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), the Fulbright Senior African Fellowship in Folklore and Folklife (at the University of Pennsylvania), the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship (University of Texas), and the Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellowship (Du Bois Institute, Harvard University).
His books include Nsukka Harvest: Poetry from Nsukka, 1966-1972 (1972); Dogon (Heritage Library of African Peoples) (1996); and Edo: Bini People of the Benin Kingdom (Heritage Library of African Peoples) (1996); Testaments of Thunder: Poems of Crisis and War (2002); and The Hero in Igbo Life and Literature (ed. with Donatus Nwoga) (2002). Forthcoming books include The Quest for Fulfillment: A Study of the Organic Unity of Okigbo’s Poetry (2011); Christopher Okigbo: Collected Poetry (an annotated critical edition) (2011); The Burden of Several Centuries: Papers from the 2007 Okigbo Conference (2011); and Christopher Okigbo: The Critical Groundwork (2011), Performance and Oral Literary Criticism; The Columbia Anthology of African Literature, co-edited with Steven Serafin; and Omenuko, an English translation of the classic1933 Igbo novel by Pita Nwana.
Professor Azuonye’s college teaching career, which began at Nsukka in 1972, spans four leading Nigerian universities (Ibadan, Lagos, Nsukka, and Imo State, up till 1991when he joined the University of Massachusetts in 1992 as Chair of Africana Studies. A full professor since 1997. While in residence at the Du Bois Institute, he convened the 1st ever international Okigbo conference and completed a pilot study of the poet’s previously unpublished papers.
A member of the Board of Directors of both the Chinua Achebe Foundation and the Christopher Okigbo Foundation, in 1994-2000, he served as the commissioning editor of several of the 56-volume series, The Heritage Library of African Peoples.
A versatile scholar, his studies of the Igbo oral epic have successfully challenged and revolutionalized scholarly thinking worldwide on the genre of the epic. He is also a leading expert on the poetry of Christopher Okigbo. Beyond these areas of specialization, he has become engaged in redefining the canons of African letters through his bold agenda for a comprehensive history of African literature.


Present Professor, Department of Africana Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston

Curriculum Vitae

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Contact Information

Office: Wheatley Hall, 04.00102
Phone: 617-287-6795


Books and Monographs (15)

Contributions to Books and Encyclopedias (25)