Prof. Hogan On His Novel, “A People Without Shame”

Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Patrick Hogan has written extensively on various research interests, but he is most proud of his novel, “A People Without Shame.” In conversation with an English Department student worker, he said, “This is by far my favorite.”

Published in May of this year, the first draft of the novel was finished between 1998 and 1999. In the intervening decades, Hogan revised his manuscript and published a narrative epic poem, “The Death of the Goddess,” as well as numerous academic volumes.

Hogan, a specialist in literary theory, cognitive psychology, and postcolonial literature, said, “I always enjoyed doing the literature more.” But part of what makes his creative work so compelling is the influence of his scholarly expertise, which informs every bit of “A People Without Shame” down to its premise.

In the novel, an English linguistic anthropologist simply called A. is recruited to complete a linguistic survey of Somota, a fictional land under British occupation which combines elements from India, Nigeria, and South Africa, among others.

“That sort of allowed me to bring in different aspects of colonialism as they were manifest in different regions,” Hogan said.

A. meets an oral poet with the hereditary responsibility to learn, revise, and retell her culture’s major epic. A.’s fascination drives him to transcribe and translate this tale.

“A lot of oral tradition is just lost, and so that was something that I wanted to give a sense of—the wealth and the complexity and the aesthetic consequence of orature,” Hogan said.

As A.’s story progresses, his mild skepticism of colonization evolves into horror, leading to a “sincere but very ineffective attempt to do something about it,” Hogan explained. The narrative is intercut with A.’s notes, including translations from Somotan stories.

Hogan’s favorite moment from the novel comes from the epic, when its rebellious hero encounters the atrocities of war: “He is completely justified in his rebellion, but he realizes that that isn’t good enough—that the killing of warfare is never justified,” Hogan said. “I find it very powerful, even if I do say so myself. I think it’s very effectively pacifist or anti-war.”

Learn more about Hogan and “A People Without Shame” at the Blackwater Press website.