The Heinemann African Writers Series (AWS) was founded in 1962 with the publication of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (originally published in 1958) as AWS No. 1, and with Achebe himself as Founding Editor. Achebe, who in 2007 won the Man Booker International award in recognition of his achievement in fiction, remained Series Editor until 1972, by which time the series included 100 titles, and he continued to have an influence on the series well after this date. The initial aim was to produce a paperback series featuring writing by African authors (initially, this was limited to black African authors) that would be affordable for a general African readership. As African nations won independence, writers like Achebe began to forge distinctive national literatures throughout the continent. Independence also led to a demand from African schools and universities for contemporary African writing to replace the European bias of existing syllabuses. The AWS took on this role and published work by all the major authors of this period, together with classic earlier texts and new writing, giving the series a unique importance in African cultural history.
The publication of this historic collection in online form restores access to a substantial body of literature, much of which is out of print and only accessible in specialist research libraries, opening up new possibilities for scholarship and teaching in the fields of African and literary studies.
The AWS was also notable for its striking book cover designs, often incorporating elements of traditional African art. To see full colour scans of many of these original covers, view our Cover Gallery; this contains a chronological list of the entire print series, with links to images for a growing number of selected titles. For a full introduction to the history and significance of the print series, read the introductory essay 'The Tiger That Pounced: The African Writers Series (1962–2003) and the Online Reader' by Robert Fraser with Nourdin Bejjit. Robert Fraser is Senior Research Fellow in Literature at the Open University, and is the author of several books on African and postcolonial literature, including West African Poetry: A Critical History (Cambridge UP, 1986) and Lifting The Sentence: A Poetics Of Postcolonial Fiction (Manchester UP, 2000).
Twentieth-Century Drama contains the essential collection of published plays from throughout the English-speaking world, covering the history of modern drama from the 1890s to the present day. The collection's contents range from canonical authors such as George Bernard Shaw, Langston Hughes, Sean O'Casey, Noël Coward, Eugene O'Neill, Harold Pinter, Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard and Thornton Wilder, to off-Broadway experimentation and South African township theatre.
No other electronic collection offers such diversity: Twentieth-Century Drama is a truly global collection, containing an extensive collection of play texts by over 300 principal authors from North America and Canada, Britain and Ireland, India, Africa, Australia and the Caribbean. The collection's breadth of content and powerful search options allow users to open up connections between classic plays such as Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan (1923), Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1938), August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow (1987), Harold Pinter's The Homecoming (1965) or Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) and less well-known texts drawn from the full range of modern theatrical traditions. Areas such as postcolonial writing, women's theatre, and community theatre are given full representation, and Naturalist, Expressionist and absurdist works appear alongside popular comedies, melodramas, farces and thrillers. Full details of the works in the collection are given in the bibliography.
Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Second Edition is an essential collection of poetry which allows readers an unparalleled survey of the movements, schools and distinctive voices of modern and contemporary American poetry. It combines two existing Literature Collections, Twentieth-Century American Poetry and Twentieth-Century African American Poetry, with over 500 volumes of newly-licensed material from established and emergent poets. The collection contains over 100,000 poems representing the full range of American poetry of the last century, from the major Modernist works of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Djuna Barnes to the contemporary works of Robinson Jeffers, Billy Collins, Elinor Wylie and Peter Gizzi.
Major movements of the century are represented, including the Black Mountain School of Charles Olson and Robert Duncan, the Deep Image poetry of Robert Bly and James Wright, underground literature by the Beat poets, The New York School of John Ashbery, Clark Coolidge and Denise Levertov, the influential feminist works of Adrienne Rich and the works of the confessional poets. Short-lived but significant movements, such as Vorticism, Objectivism and Concrete poetry are also included.
The most important and influential African American poets of the twentieth century are included in the collection. Key writers such as Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer and Imamu Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou are featured alongside a considerable body of writing by young and emergent poets of the 1980s and 1990s who have gained recognition through national poetry awards or inclusion within leading print anthologies. This collection is significantly augmented by the further inclusion of ethnic poetic voices from the Chicano, Asian-American and Native-American communities such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Tomas Rivera and Li-Young Lee.