"Shall these bones live?": a textual materialist study of the 1950-1975 Chinua Achebe corpus
This project fills several substantial lacunae in Achebe letters. First, it provides a chronological bibliography of the 1950-1975 Achebe corpus. This establishes for the first time a comprehensive and accurate illustration of the relationships among all published Achebe texts from 1950 to 1975 and among those texts and related manuscripts, particularly noting text revisions over the life of each text. Second, it creates color-coded variorum text documents for each publication. These text documents, for the first time incorporate all textual evidence for a specific publication, tracking all text mutations, both compositional and publication variations. The formatting of the variorum texts is guided by social text theory that gives equal attention to all composition and publication mutation in order to demonstrate the synchronic and diachronic movement of each text. As such it presumes in advance no link between multiple versions and a progression of authorial intent or authorial teleology in order that the stages of completion might be appraised in relation to all others. Taken together, the chronological bibliography and the variorum text documents provide extensive evidence that text mutation is present across all genres of Achebe letters, including critical essays, poems, short stories, and novels. A survey of past textualist approaches to Achebe's works reveals only minimal attention to text mutations in Achebe fiction and exposes the dearth of textual approaches to Achebe's non-fiction, poetry, and manuscripts. The failure to take Achebe's compositional and publication mutations into consideration ignores important evidence of evolving aesthetic and rhetorical responses to changing historical moments. A sample reading of one non-fiction text illustrates the issues at stake when text mutation is ignored and establishes the study's core claim that a textual materialist approach is the sine qua non for future Achebe critical studies. Finally, the study establishes text mutation as an ongoing element in post-1975 Achebe letters and calls for a comprehensive, chronological bibliography and the creation of variorum text documents for subsequent Achebe publications and manuscripts.