Furniss, Graham (Lytton)

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FURNISS, Graham (Lytton)

Education: University of London, B.A. (with honors), 1972, Ph.D., 1977. Memberships: African
Studies Association of the United Kingdom (member of council, 1986-88, 1993--), Royal African
Society (vice chairman), Britain-Nigeria Association. Addresses:  Office: Department of African
Languages and Cultures, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Thornhaugh
St., Russell Sq., London WC1H 0XG, England. E-mail: [email protected]


Seminaire St. Louis, Ziguinchor, Casamance, Senegal, professor of English, 1967-68; Bayero
University, Kano, Nigeria, part-time lecturer in Nigerian languages, 1973-74; University of Maiduguri,
Maiduguri, Nigeria, lecturer in languages and linguistics, 1977-79; University of London School of
Oriental and African Studies, London, England, lecturer, 1979-89, senior lecturer, 1990-96, reader in
Hausa cultural studies, 1996-99, professor of African-language literature, 2000--, chairperson, Centre
of African Studies, 1989-93, dean of languages, 1995--, dean of faculty of languages and cultures,
2002--. Guest lecturer at University of Hamburg, Ahmadu Bello University, Bayero University, Oxford
University, and University of Bayreuth. British Broadcasting Corporation, broadcaster, producer, and
studio manager for BBC Hausa Service.
(Editor) Writings on Hausa Grammar: The Collected Papers of F. W. Parsons, Books on Demand (Ann
Arbor, MI), 1982.
(Editor with Philip J. Jaggar, and contributor) Studies in Hausa Language and Linguistics, Kegan Paul
International (London, England), 1988.
(Editor) African Languages and Cultures, two volumes, ISSN, 1988-89.
Second Level Hausa: Grammar in Action, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
(London, England), 1991.
(Editor with Richard Fardon, and contributor) African Languages, Development, and the
State, Routledge (London, England), 1994.
Ideology in Practice: Hausa Poetry as Exposition of Values and Viewpoints, Ruediger Koeppe Verlag
(Cologne, Germany), 1995.
(Editor with Liz Gunner, and contributor) Power, Marginality, and African Oral Literature,Cambridge
University Press (Cambridge, England), 1995.
Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1996.
(Editor and author of new introduction and notes with Lucy Duran, and contributor) Sunjata:
Gambian Versions of the Mande Epic by Bamba Suso and Banna Kanute,translated and annotated by
Gordon Innes, with the assistance of Bakari Sidibe, Penguin (London, England), 1999.
(Editor with Richard Fardon) African Broadcast Cultures: Radio in Transition, Praeger (Westport, CT),

Orality: The Power of the Spoken Word, Palgrave Macmillan (Hampshire, England), 2005.
Contributor to books, including Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa, Volume I: Classical
Traditions and Modern Meanings, edited by S. Sperl and C. Shackle, E. J. Brill (Leiden, Netherlands),
1996; and The Encyclopedia of Sub- Saharan Africa, edited by J. Middleton, Simon & Schuster (New
York, NY). Contributor to periodicals, including Sudanic Africa, Oral Tradition, African Affairs,
Research in African Literatures, and Journal of Peasant Studies. Founding editor, African Languages
and Cultures.
Furniss's Poetry, Prose and Culture in Hausa centers on "one of the few major indigenous African
languages whose large body of literature receives serious critical attention" according to Tanure
Ojaide in World Literature Today. In West Africa, some fifty-million people speak Hausa; its relatively
low profile could stem from the fact that Hausa is considered a linguistic, rather than ethnic, entity.
In an article for Africa, A. H. M. Kirk-Greene reported that Furniss offers a comprehensive history of
a whole African literary culture, both oral and written. The author describes his approach as a
cross-generic perspective, recalling Raoul Granquist genre convergence of popular culture added
Kirk-Greene. For Furniss these parallel domains of discourse interact within particular social and
ideological contexts.


In establishing Hausa's literary relationship with West African history and culture, Furniss identifies
two critical periods of writing. The first novels and poetry were produced in the 1930s and 1940s by
the Literature Bureau, run by the colonial government. Such writers as Abubakar Imam, Bello
Kagara, and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first prime minister of Nigeria, were characteristic of this
period. The second wave of Hausa literature came in the late 1970s and 1980s, with Abdukadir
Dangambo and Sulaiman Ibrahim Katsina the major writers, explained Ojaide. Furniss provides fieldwork [that] is painstakingly thorough, added the reviewer, and his practical experience... is a
measure of the depth of his critical investigation. Praising the book's bibliography as a major
intellectual resource in its own right, Kirk-Greene called Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in
Hausa a masterpiece and concluded that the author has given an English-speaking audience a
superb exposition, scholarly and scintillating, of the dynamics of Hausa literature.


In Power, Marginality and African Oral Literature Furniss and coeditor Elizabeth Gunner collect
presentations from a 1991 conference. The book's great strength, said Landeg White in a review
for Africa, is that it brings together African and Euro-American scholars to debate common ground--
something increasingly difficult to accomplish these days. White singled out essays by Paulo de
Morais Faris, Isabel Hofmeyr, and Lucy Duran as significant in this collection; but the critic also
registered one grouse, as he put it: that the whole point about oral research is the search for the
moment when what you are hearing baffles you. That is when enquiry begins. It is obviously
important to be theoretically and methodologically informed. But it's important, too, to recognise
that conclusions reached elsewhere may not apply in Africa. As Deborah James observed in
the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, the papers in the volume cover a diverse and
comprehensive range of geographical areas, making the book a valuable comparative tool for use by
lecturers and students.