Meet Michael Irene, the African literature scholar who loves Gucci, and good opera!Mike Irene Stylish Academic

Tell us about your research

My research is divided into two parts—creative and critical. In the critical part I examine Ben Okri’s treatment of oral tradition and specifically, how he has used these traditional features in his abiku trilogy, The Famished Road, Songs of Enchantment and Infinite Riches to address contemporary Nigeria. I argue that Nigerian authors have a role to play in the preservation of African oral traditions.

In the creative part I employ these oral traditions in my novel. Here, I show how I infuse elements of oral traditional elements to narrate the issues of maternal and infernal maternity in Nigeria. My novel gives me the opportunity to experiment, explore and use riddles, proverbs and legends as a narrative technique of presenting the novel’s themes.

What’s the best thing about being an academic researcher?

For me, the best thing about being an academic researcher is the chance you get to do a lot of reading about a subject you love.

What book are you reading at the moment? 

I am reading four books simultaneously at the moment: Ayi kwei Armah’s Fragments Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism, J.P Satre’s What is Literature? and Helen Oyeyemi’s Snow, Boy, Bird

What style are you comfortable in?Mike 2
Polo shirt and a pair of straight jeans always provide that comfort for me.

Most favorite item in your wardrobe

My Gucci boots

Favourite fashion brands

Gucci, Hermès, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Emporio Armani.

Where do you shop for your outfits? 

I shop mostly at Bicester Village and, at other times, online.

Whose style inspires you? 

Peter Jones

If you could ask three (academic juggernauts) for dinner, who would they be, and why?

I would like to have dinner with Noam Chomsky in order to ask him how he handles/mixes academic life and public life. I would also love to have dinner with Wole Soyinka and Simon Gikandi because I’d love to pick their brains about contemporary African literature.

What would you spend your last cash on? 

Perhaps, on learning something new.

MikeyAcademic events or seminars in the next 6 months? 

African Studies Association conference, November, 2015

Are you a Windows or a Mac? 

I’m a Mac o! Chai (exclamation)

Where would be your ideal get-away spot from the academic hustle?

Somewhere in the Caribbean or anywhere I can do some scuba diving

Who are you when you’re not doing research or teaching? 

I’m a father, husband and entrepreneur.

People are always surprised that…

I enjoy good opera. (heck, that surprised me too!)

If you were not an academic researcher, what would you be?

I would be an entrepreneur.

Michael blogs at WhichWayNaija. He is running a Creative Writing Clinic this August. It is an intensive weekly course, set up to help individuals improve their writing skills. It equips participants with better tools for constructing a good story. There are limited slots left. For more information, contact me here

Mike Irene Funmi Iyanda

Michael & Nigeria media personality, Funmi Iyanda

Meet the Scholar is a weekly feature on the Stylish Academic blog. Every Wednesday, I profile an academic researcher – about their work, style, and lifestyle. Email me