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Preview the Essays from our Library!

 

 

Here you can take a sneak peek at some essays and book chapters

Available from our Library of African Writing (AW), Journals of Critical Studies [CS], African Literature and Culture [JALC] and New Poetry [NP]. You may order from an online bookstore or contact the publishers for bulk supply.

 

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Shakespeare and Ambanasom by Tembong Denis

 

Comparative artistic and philosophical ideas between Western and African texts bring new perspectives to the study of recent African writing. In his Son of the Native Soil, the Anglophone Cameroon writer, Shadrack Ambanasom, projects a Shakespearean tragedy against traditional African background. Set in the North West Region of Cameroon, the tragic scene and the fate of the protagonist are artistically woven to reflect Aristotelian tragedy and the tragic hero. Ambansom’s craft is evident in the way he endows his hero with qualities that propel him higher than others in the community of Dudum. The novelist treads upon the bounds of nature and passion and endows on Achamba, the hero of the story, an outstanding personality which foreshadows the tragic atmosphere that leads the protagonist to his treacherous murder at the height of his fame. He lets the society catapult Achamba onto the height of his glory only to “betray him in deeper consequence” (Colin 2).

There are strong indicators from Shakespeare’s Macbeth on the tragic events that surround the tragic hero in Ambansom’s Son of the Native Soil. Regarding Macbeth, Alexandre-Marie Colin observes:  

 Macbeth is from a tragic standpoint the most sublime and the most impressive as an acting play. Nothing so terrible has been written since the Eumenides of Aeschylus, and nothing in dramatic literature - not even the slaying of Agamemnon - is depicted with such awesome intensity as the murder of Duncan. (Par 1)

Therefore, reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth side by side Amabanasom’s Son of the Native Soil might seem like an examination of two literary cultures.

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Available in Africa and Her Writers: JALC 10 Special Edition

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Orature and Oratorical Teaching Strategies in African Literature by EM Sone and DM Toko

 

Traditional literature in Africa (orature) serves as an instrument for examination of individual experience in relation to the normative order of society. It was used, and is still being used in several parts of rural Africa to chart social progress or to comment on how society adheres to or deviates from general community aesthetic. Seen in this light, traditional literature as a creation of the imagination ultimately derives its material from the realities of society. As mirror of the society it enables the community to teach, entertain, and explore the ambiguities of human existence. The substance of human experience out of which orature is created is that which has made sufficient impact in the community to excite the imagination of the people to literary creativity. One of these experiences is civic responsibility and leadership training which is sadly lost in modernised or postcolonial environment.

Quite often in traditional literature characters are classified in three categories –heroes, antiheroes and villains. Effective leadership is usually entrusted in the hands of a heroic character. The hero is one who finds personal satisfaction in the service of his community or one who has offered invaluable services to the community. Of course, there may be monarchies and dynasties with their autocrats, dictators and despots. But the leader, where there was one, was somebody who must submerge his private interests in the pursuit of national ideals which were also in harmony with universal morality. The point we intend to make is that the ideals of good leadership are fundamental to the concerns of African oratory. African folk tales reveal three broad attitudes of communal attitudes towards leadership and social change as reflected in the three tales we have selected for study.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC 4

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Three (Neo)colonial Male Characters of Aidoo by Miriam C. Gyimah

 

IN The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo: Polylectics and Reading Against Neo-colonialism, Vincent Odamtten argues that Aidoo's works consistently address the issue of neo-colonialism and its impact on the educated Ghanaian elite. Citing critics like Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie who maintains that the African woman writer has a particular commitment to discuss issues of gender, womanhood and a Third World reality, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o who asserts that African writers must write against neo-colonialism, Odamtten stresses that readers and critics of African literature should also invest in reading and writing against neo-colonialism. He says, "[i]f there are writers who are writing against neo-colonialism, there should be reader-critics who complement their work" (6). He warns against reading and writing about African women characters and situations from a narrow feminist perspective. Such criticism which sometimes focuses on the ills of patriarchy through colonial impositions and those effected through "indigenous pre-colonial values and relations" promote a dichotomous analysis of African literature (4). Odamtten, then, argues for a polylectic approach to reading and critiquing these works. He says that in order to read in this manner, one must "begin to develop a polylectic understanding of Africa's economic, political, and cultural actualities" (6).

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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Cultural Translation: Ama Ata Aidoo and Tess Onwueme by KO Secovnie

 

Ama Ata Aidoo's The Dilemma of a Ghost and Osonye Tess Onwueme's The Missing Face demonstrate the process of  finding a cultural identity that does not privilege an originary moment, yet provides space for a negotiated Pan-African  identity for West Africans and African Americans. Both of these plays deal with the issue of constructing a Pan-African identity through connecting African Americans with West Africans and both highlight the simultaneous necessity for and failure of cultural translation to facilitate that connection. In each play, we find a female protagonist returning to Africa only to find that the connection she initially sought was not naturally there just waiting for her. Both women (Eulalie in Dilemma and Ida Bee in Face) find the need for a cultural translation and each looks to her African "been-to" husband/lover to provide it. In each case, the expected translator fails in his duties. It is left, instead, for the West African communities themselves, led by women, to provide a translation of culture to the two African-American women that will allow them to connect with and embrace their African identity while respecting the cultures that they find in Africa (rather than the culture that they project onto Africa). These plays, then, challenge romanticized notions of Pan-African identification through an emphasis on cultural translation and reveal the failure of the male-centered model of  translation that would posit the husband as the sole translator for the wife and the "been-to" man as the sole translator for the community. Instead, a feminist agency is exerted by the West African communities in which these plays are set that undoes the western notion of translation as the domain of the male, and moves it into a female-led, democratic process by which the community as a whole makes decisions about how to translate itself to the diasporic culture, thus asserting a kind of indigenous African agency while privileging the role of the female within this agency. 

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Shades of Utter(ing) Silences by Bettina Weiss

 

“Utter(ing) Silences” delves on the idea of women's potential to unveil constricting gender and racial laws by uttering silence, or as the title of the essay also suggests, by being enveloped in utter silence. This voicelessness, however, a cloister into the emotional space, is chosen deliberately and therefore distances itself from the mere notion of the Beti proverb of Cameroon: “Women have no mouth”.

The printed dash or the empty page does not necessarily stand for absence and lack, but for gaps and blanks which set great store by what is left untold.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Poetics of Diaspora by JT Westmoreland

 

A new poetic and literary trend among Francophone African diasporic authors, specifically those writing from Paris, is the use of surrealist techniques in a “postcolonial” context. This practice dates back to Negritude's affiliations with such European surrealist writers as André Breton. Whereas traditionally in African diasporic context, Surrealism has been used to articulate a sense of solidarity or belonging (as in the formation of the Negritude and Black Power movements), Bessora employs surrealist imagery in the immigrant context to articulate a sense of unbelonging or anxiety-filled, hybrid state of the female immigrant in Paris.

In her semi-autobiographical novel 53cm, the Swiss-Gabonese writer, Bessora, satirizes the exaggerated significance of the various “cartes” that will permit her protagonist, Zara, to become part of the French Nation through the acquisition of citizenship. In ironic tones, she fetishizes these seemingly unattainable objects, thus underscoring the absurdity of the immigrant situation as created by the French government.

The contradictions inherent in the immigrant position are clearly manifest in the continual adherence to a false hope: becoming a French citizen despite the impossibility of attaining the requisite “cartes.” By fetishizing the cartes, Bessora inflates their importance to the point at which they become absurd. In the case of Zara, it is not necessarily the carte itself that is ridiculous but the legal processes and rigorous physical rituals one must undergo in order to obtain the desired status of citizen.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Colonisation and African Modernity by B. M'Baye

 

IN The Black Atlantic (1993), Paul Gilroy argues that, from the late eighteenth century to the present, the cultures of Blacks in the West have been hybrid and antithetical to “ethnic absolutism” (4-5). According to Gilroy, the modern history of the Black Atlantic is a discontinuous trajectory in which countries, borders, languages, and political ideologies are crossed in order to oppose “narrow nationalism” (12). Gilroy's term “Black Atlantic” describes the “rhizomorphic, fractal structure of the transcultural, international formation” of modern Black cultures that oppose the nationalist focus “common to English and African American versions of cultural studies” (4). Gilroy defines “modernity” as the period from the end of the eighteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth centuries when the ideas of “nationality, ethnicity, authenticity, and cultural integrity” that sustain contemporary cultural studies in the West were first developed (2). Gilroy writes:

The conspicuous power of these modern subjectivities and the movements they articulated has been left behind. Their power has, if anything, grown, and their ubiquity as a means to make political sense of the world is currently paralleled by the languages of class and socialism by which they once appeared to have been surpassed. My concern here is less with explaining their longevity and enduring appeal than with exploring some of the special political problems that arise from the fatal junction of the concept of nationality with the concept of culture and the affinities and affiliations which link the Blacks of the West to one of their adoptive, parental cultures: the intellectual heritage of the West. (2) There are problematic aspects of Gilroy's concept of Black modernity. The first element is Gilroy's representation of the essentialising or romanticising of Black culture as being antithetical to modernity.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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Creating Identity out of the Postcolonial Void by L Nesbitt

 

IN the last half of the twentieth century many postcolonial cultures have found themselves out of balance. During colonization the people lived a kind of non-existence, a living void; their identities had been stolen. To establish dominion, the colonial power eradicated previous religions, educational structures, and languages. Although the indigenous person adopted a Western identity through the colonizer, it was an illusion, empty of meaning, because the native culture, in all its complexity, was not recognized by the colonizer. Essentially the people became impostors of themselves. Their personal and cultural history had been destroyed as one of the implications of colonial rule. Since the complex identity of the native was not acknowledged, the native essentially never existed as a unique individual in the colonizer's eyes.

The identity inflicted on the indigenous person was a meaningless stereotype masking the true identity that had become void. This vacancy will be explored from the context of abuse of power. This void is the denial of identity and a life with no meaning; the mask of colonial identity covering the void is an illusion. Taking off the mask in the postcolonial world does not necessarily reveal a full individual; the colonial erasure of cultural and personal identity appears to be permanent. The enduring exploitation of formerly colonised nations has been defined using the term Neo-colonialism. The term implies a nation with a continued reliance upon the former imperial power and the West in general, but more specifically neo-colonialism also implies a persistent state of confusion of selfhood for the individual and for the whole nation. We spend our lives constructing unique personal traits and individually recognizable selves created from different sources. In the globalisation of today's society, the notion of identity is becoming increasingly complex, especially with an added complication of post-colonization. Many individuals do not communicate in their indigenous language, were not schooled using textbooks reflecting their particular social and cultural situations, or had Western instructors; even their religions did not reflect their own indigenous religious history. The definition of one's self has become multi-layered and essentially fractured.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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Rhetoric of Despair in Children of Koloko by Ogaga Okuyade

 

THIS discourse is centred against the background of public attitudes and orientation towards military or democratic  governance in Africa. It evinces the relationship between political and legal sovereignty in Chin Ce's Children of Koloko,  a book that artistically anatomizes the Nigerian society in its grossest sense in order to give the reader a proper understanding  of that society.  African literature is hardly discussed outside contemporary history from where it derives its pre-occupation. From the late  1970s till date, African literature continues to be inward  looking, x-raying the entire continent with the people trapped in serious socio-economic crisis. To assess African literature more effectively, critics must take into cognizance that this artistic vocation is a recreation of  social realities and a critique of the African condition. African writers are alert and alive to their responsibility not only as  teachers but, as Oyeniyi Okunoye puts it, "critics and  chroniclers of shared experiences" (19). They continue to appraise the ruling class thereby signposting the failures of post- colonial nation states. The post colonial African terrain has been a turbulent geography since the 1960s when independence began to sweep through the continent. As the ruled continue to falter even within the marginal space where they are being held supine, so do their rulers progressively plunge them into poverty with the apparatus of power permanently confiscated for public subjugation. The disenchantment with Africa's independences has made most African writers identify with the people's efforts to resist the rulers. In Josaphat Kubayada's words:

Postcolonial dictatorship in Africa concerns itself with repression, which in effect means the arrest, exile, execution, or consistent harassment of  dissident voices. The general result of dictatorship is an atmosphere of fear, hate and humiliation. (5)

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Antigone as Revolutionary Muse by A Van Weyenberg

 

THE popularity of Antigone within Western literature, art and thought has been discussed at length, most famously by George Steiner who classifies it as "one of the most enduring and canonic acts in the history of our philosophic, literary, political consciousness" (1984 preface). At the heart  of the tragedy is the conflict between Antigone, who sets out to bury her brother, and her uncle King Creon, who has issued a decree forbidding this burial. Antigone's appeal largely derives from this central conflict, a conflict that appears straightforward, but on closer inspection reveals the intricate  nature of the various oppositions it explores, such as that between woman and man, individual and state, private and public and the gods and mankind. Not only does this complexity make the conflict between both protagonists tragic to begin with, but it also ensures Antigone's continuing attraction as a source for philosophical and artistic inspiration.

A great number of playwrights have revisited Sophocles' original, but its contemporary popularity is particularly striking on the African stage, where Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Athol Fugard, Fémi Òsófisan and Sylvain Bemba have given Antigone post-colonial relevance in a variety of 2 settings. It may seem strange that African playwrights would turn to texts that represent the classical Western canon. After all, Greek tragedy originally came to colonial areas through imported, and forcefully imposed, Western educational systems, and in that sense could be seen to epitomise imperial Europe. In their seminal study on post-colonial drama, Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins clarify that it is precisely this enduring legacy of colonialist education that explains the "prominent endeavour among colonised writers/artists" to "rework the European ‘classics’ in order to invest them with more local relevance and to divest them of their assumed authority/authenticity" (16). Still, whether or not African reworkings of Antigone should be considered counter-narratives to the Western canon is a question in need of closer investigation, and one that will be discussed later.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Ojaide’s Proverbs by Steve Bode Ekundayo

 

The use of proverbs is a major distinguishing narrative style of African novels. It is difficult to read an African/ Nigerian novel without running into strings of proverbs and aphorisms because the artful and apt use of proverbs is a remarkable and distinguishing characteristic of oratory, orators and general interaction in traditional African settings. Quite often, Nigerian novelists lace or sprinkle their narratives with proverbs which enhance the telling of their tales. From the pioneer novelists like Achebe to recent ones like Ojaide, the use of proverbs has remained one of the hallmarks of the genres. In the words of Uyo,

the use of proverbs shows conversational eloquence and …sayings are usually learnt from listening to elders… Proverbs can be used in several ways to teach moral lessons, influence people…and to entertain. A number of Nigerian prose writers are exceptionally skillful in the creative use of proverbs in their works of fiction….the creative use of figurative language is one of the greatest achievements of the author and this makes the novel interesting to read even as a narrative about contemporary issues.(6)

Similarly, Ogunjimi and N’Allah recognise in proverbs “the ingredients of harmonizing the life rhythm of any community” (65). Thus the use of proverbs betrays the Africanness of the writers and projects the settings and thematic preoccupations of their works. According to Jegede,

 Proverbs speak louder than words... Proverbs form a pool of linguistic and thematic resources from which speakers and writers…have drawn…The functions of proverbs as means of embellishing speech and performance, projecting the business sense of a people, portraying the image of a community and preserving the history and culture of a people are usually reflected in literary works. (35-6)

 As a writer Ojaide “engages metaphors, images, linguistic and semantic manipulations and legends from folktales and history to speak his thoughts, make his points and depict topical issues” (Olaofioye 7). His works are animated through “communal landscape given in myth, folklore and common histories that provide a community with a source of identity” (Okuyade 24).

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Available in Africa and Her Writers (JALC 10) Special Edition

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The Child Hero:  A Comparative Study of Weep not, child and Houseboy by L. N. Nwokora

 

IN his work on Chinua Achebe's novels, entitled ‘Chinua Achebe and the Tragedy of History ,' Thomas Melone says that the content of literature ought to be judged as "a portion of his destiny" (T. Melone, 1973, 12). Explaining his reasons, the Cameroonian critic says that every authentic literature should be a "carrier of humanity" ("porteuse d'humanite"), since it should, whether it be African or European, "witness for man and his destiny"; because, continues the critic, "men are first of all men ..., their identity is fundamental, and their destiny human" (T. Melone, 1973.12). More than any other form of literary criticism or appreciation, comparative literature highlights this universality of even' creative literary art. Universality, however, does not mean that one must necessarily compare authors from different countries or different cultural backgrounds. It is possible to compare and contrast two or more writers from the same country, from the same village, even from the same family, and finally, an author can be compared to himself. One comes up with interesting findings, in comparing, for example, the Chinua Achebe of No Longer at Ease with the Achebe of Arrow of God. The young graduate returning from England, unable to find his feet in his former home, and the village of Umuaro no longer thesame under sweeping religious attacks on the gods that had hitherto guaranteed its security and unity, both are witnesses each in its own way to the same cracking society under the invasion of foreign culture. Does it mean that the celebrated Nigerian novelist has said everything when he published his famous Things Fall Apart, and that thereafter is he only repeating himself? Far from it! The novelist is comparable to a surveyor, whose field is the human society; in each novel he observes society from a particular point of view. The product of his artistic (here literary) creation is a "portion" of man's struggle with life, i.e., with his destiny, and this "odyssey" reproduces, mutatis mutandis, similar characteristics, whether it talks of Achilles, of Antigone, of Hamlet, of Obi Okonkwo or Ezeulu.

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Available in African Literary Journal  ALJ No.2

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Postcolonial Violence, Oral Metaphors by Devapriya Sanyal

 

THIS reading will demonstrate in Ce's second published prose fiction true images of this postcolonial violence that has modern African states such as Nigeria in a vice grip – a post-war violence, as brutal to the psyche of individuals as it is to the state, perennially threatening to consume the national cultural and political ethos of the entire African region. Thus while Gamji College in a larger artistic perspective may deal with the character of the nation states of Africa under the various civilian and military regimes that govern them in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (Brown par 1), its oral metaphors of violence are rendered in a manner that few recent fiction narratives in the African region have attempted. The objective of this study is to look at the story-teller's conceptualisation of violence, and how it envelopes his narrative, characterization and language in a way that brings out the message in its glaring entirety.

Chin Ce's story of a metaphorical African-Nigerian nation (Gamji College) is divided into three sections entitled the "The Cross", "The Bottle" and “The Gun". Each of these sections is as separate from the other as the characters in the stories are different. The only link is that all the action happens in the college although at different times. With this arrangement, quite similar to the author’s first published work, Children of Koloko, this collection of stories, told through the viewpoint of three major characters, gives us added insight to the author's vision regarding the youths (college students) of his country represented by Gamji in the three stories.

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Available in Journal of African Literature JAL No.5

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Disgrace as Existential Maturation by Erik Grayson

 

ALTHOUGH J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace has garnered a great deal of critical attention in the six years since its publication, most  critical literature written about Coetzee's novel attempts to identify and delineate a process by which the protagonist David Lurie lifts himself out of a state of disgrace, often claiming that a condition of grace is the former professor's ultimate destination. Yet, as Ron Charles observes, the moment one begins to consider the nature of Lurie's (dis)grace, "the novel's title begins to refract meaning in a dozen directions" (20). Furthermore, commentators continue to struggle with what Gareth Cornwell calls "the fertile indirections of its narrative style" ("Disgraceland" 43.) Indeed, combined with Coetzee's deceptively simple prose, Disgrace has encouraged a range of equally convincing, yet widely divergent, interpretations.

In their discussions of (dis)grace, critics have viewed Lurie as a burgeoning Stoic, a man threatened by emasculation, and an individual suffering from a lack or intimacy while positing that the novel depicts the attainment of grace through "secular humility" (Kissack and Titlestad 135) and the struggle to remain human in an inhumane world. However, despite the novel's concern with states of (dis)grace, the trajectory David Lurie's life takes during the course of the novel might be better understood as a process of existential maturation. Rather than chart the fall and subsequent redemption of a "mighty" academic, as Melanie Isaacs's father sardonically remarks, Disgrace documents the end of David Lurie's reluctant acceptance of aging and mortality (Coetzee 167). In fact, Lurie's strikingly powerful fixation on mortality not only girds the aforementioned readings, but may also explain the "odd kink in [the novel's] narrative structure," namely what "the first quarter of the story [has] to do with what follows" (Hynes 1). It is only after David Lurie acknowledges and internalises his own eventual mortality that he discovers anything akin to grace. Indeed, Lurie's period of existential maturation, his gradual acceptance of life's eventualities, also marks a period of creative self-discovery during which Lurie finds his voice as he composes a comic opera "that will never be performed" (215). Disgrace, then, may be read as David Lurie's journey from estrangement to sexual, creative and existential self-actualization.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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Postcolonial Literatures as Counter-Discourse by A Kehinde

J.M. Coetzee's Foe and the Reworking of the Canon  

 

A century of European (British and French mainly, but also Portuguese, German, Italian and Spanish) colonization left behind an African continent dazed, bewildered and confused. This is why modern African writers see the need for and admit a commitment to the restoration of African values. In fact, the Western world equates knowledge, modernity, modernization, civilization, progress and development to itself, while it views the Third-World from the perspective of the antithesis of the positive qualities ascribed to itself. Such negative stereotypes are perpetrated by a system of education,  which encourages all the errors and falsehoods about Africa/Africans. Writing on the jaundiced portrayal of Africa/Africans in Western canonical works, Edward Wilmot Blyden asserted over a hundred years ago that:

All our traditions and experiences are connected with a foreign race –we have no poetry but that of our taskmasters. The songs which live in our ears and are often on our lips are the songs we heard sung by those who shouted while we groaned and lamented. They sang of their history, which was the history of our degradation. They recited their triumphs, which contained the records of our humiliation. To our great misfortune, we learned their prejudices and their passions, and thought we had their aspirations and their power. (91)

Africa and Africans are given negative images in Western books of geography, travels, novels, history and in Hollywood films about the continent. In these texts and records, Africans are misrepresented; they are portrayed as caricatures. Unfortunately, Africans themselves are obliged to study such pernicious teachings. Reacting to this mistake, Chinua Achebe declares that if he were God, he would "regard as the very worst our acceptance, for whatever reason, of racial inferiority" (32). He further comments that his role as a writer is that of an educator who seeks to help his society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of vilification and self-denigration.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Memory and Trauma in Across the Mongolo by SA Agbor

 

THE study focuses on the relationship between literature and memory and thus, addresses a theme that over the last two decades has become one of the central issues in literary and cultural studies. Memory and literature intersect in many different ways. Literature is one of the media that plays a crucial role in the process of representing and constructing both individual and collective memories. Throughout literary history, literary texts have engaged in a discussion of the implications, the problems, and the purposes of remembering (www.uni-giessen.de). Literature, moreover, participates in the processes of shaping collective memories and of subversively undermining culturally dominant memories by establishing counter-memories, which seek to consider, for example, gender-conscious or ethnic perspectives on past events. One of the recurring themes as far as literary representations of  memories are concerned is the complex interaction between memories and identities. The intimate relationship between literature and memory is particularly obvious in genres such as autobiography, biography, or fictional biography.

The Anglophone problem is a historical reality in Cameroon and has had a profound influence on the literary imagination of many Anglophone writers from Bole Butake to Epie Ngome to Bate Besong, to Charles Alobwed'Epie and John Nkemngong Nkengasong amongst others. Modern Cameroon is made up of Anglophones and Francophones because the nation was colonized by the British and French. The Anglophones in Cameroon are a minority, constituting about one-fifth of the population and occupying less than one-tenth of the national territory. Alobwed'Epie states that "in Cameroon usage, the term is used to designate the opposite of Francophone on the one hand and, on the other, to designate people native to the S.W (Southwest) and N.W (Northwest) provinces" (49). Although fact is mixed with fiction, Nkengasong's text educates and allows the reader to participate in the (re)creation and (re)interpretation of events and processes that form identity crisis and alienation in a nation. Moreover, the manner in which Nkengasong manipulates characterization, storytelling, and imagination to enact memory is enriching. Across the Mongolo is relevant in the information it coveys and functions as historical data and as an avenue through which nationhood and bilingualism in Cameroon are conceived. This study aims to explore various facets of the intimate and complex relationship between literature and memory from different vantage points in Nkengasong's Across the Mongolo.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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The Feminist Impulse of Lucy Dlamini and Sembene Ousmane by F I Mogu

The Amaryllis and God’s bits of Wood

 

SINCE the advent of time and civilization, females have confronted what they perceive to be the male domination of affairs in the human society. According to the African-American feminist critic, May Helen Washington, all facets of the society must conform to the male order before they are adjudged to be correct. However, she reasons that this scenario cannot continue since it is lopsided and punitive of women. She argues for a fairer, egalitarian, non-sex biased society which accords similar rights and privileges to its male and female members alike. In her essay, “The Darkened Eye Restored: Notes Towards a Literary History of Black Women,” she opines that:

What we have to recognise is that the creation of the fiction of tradition is a matter of power, not justice, and that power has always been in the hands of men mostly white but some black. Women are the disinherited…. Those differences and the assumption that those differences make women inherently inferior, plus the appropriation by men of the power to define tradition, account for women's absence from our written records (Gates 32).

In The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers Adventures in Sex, Literature and Real Life, Calvin C. Hernton supports Washington's views and proceeds to show clearly that the male domination of all aspects of life in the society still exists. He reasons that “the complexity and vitality of black female experience have fundamentally been ignored” and that, “black male writing has been systematically discriminating against women” (Hernton 39).

The situation referred to by Washington and Hernton reveals itself in the societies projected by Lucy Dlamini and Sembene Ousmane in Swaziland and the French speaking regions of West Africa respectively. Like in the African-American setting, women begin to emerge from behind the veil of male-based culture to voice their needs and concerns. Initially, they are taken for granted. Conversely, as events unfold, men begin to take them serious and to contend with their yearnings and aspirations.

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Available in African Literary Journal ALJ  Vol 1 No. 2

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The Enigma of Coetzee by Rinku Sanjay Solanki

 

IN his essay, “Into the Dark Chamber: the Writer and the South African State,” in Doubling the Point,1 J. M. Coetzee meditates the meaning and effect of torture in particular and brutality in general within South Africa’s dystopian reality. Here he interprets an episode of flogging in Nadine Gordimer’s Burger’s Daughter as one “com[ing] from the inner reaches of Dante’s hell, beyond the scope of morality” (367).  One cannot question his take on it: South Africa “belong[ed] to a damned, dehumanized world,” comparable to the ‘the dark chamber’ of torture and inhuman brutality; “a world of blind force and mute suffering, debased, beneath good and evil” (367) where the physical existence of a torture chamber would be an inane absurdity, a grotesque parody, only emphasizing the reality of fallen scales -where ‘good’ and ‘evil’ have lost their meaning in an abyss of life/ living.

It tells a lot about Coetzee’s epithets of the life in South Africa in the context: going “beyond” good and evil; therefore despairing of the contemporary structures of perception and understanding. It could well be set in the words of one of Coetzee’s characters as, “[n]ot human evil, just a vast circulatory system, to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant” (Disgrace 98). In a contrastive significance, and to render it in a better perspective, let us recall Lurie’s innocent homily to his daughter, Lucy, regarding the animals: “if we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we feel guilty or fear of retribution” (74). This is a piece of elderly advice by a father to his passionately committed daughter and uttered just before the brutal violence strikes them. Lucy is gang-raped, Lurie badly burnt and the car stolen. The flagrant violence takes them both by surprise but, unlike Lucy, Lurie appears excessively appalled and horrified and, like a true European, harbours civic desires of justice. As it is, this intellectual father is reduced to a pathetically uninformed citizen vis-à-vis his hardy and hard-headed daughter who better knows the legacy of  “apartheid South Africa as both a product and a symptom of the West’s continued dependence on an economy that is colonial in its inextricably linked ideological and financial interests” (Jolly 368)2. It is here that the roots of the enigmatic nature of Disgrace can be located.

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Available in Africa and Her Writers (JALC 10) Special Edition

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Postcolonial Memory, Transition and Dialogue by A Grants

The Cyclic Order of Chin Ce’s Oeuvres  

 

BEGINNING with An African Eclipse (2000) Chin Ce’s oeuvres foreshadow a general communal retardation most poignant in the Koloko and Gamji fictions. Seen together as one movement, Chin Ce’s writings trace a movement in the major characters from one of social preoccupation to that of psychological transition in awareness and growth. 'A Farewell' (AE) highlights this movement in a prefatory manner. The three ways: left, right and middle signify three choices involving two extremes and a middle course, an important element in Chin Ce's oeuvres. Before the choice is made, we must face ourselves, our fears, and actions represented in 'only our own graffiti.' The choice of a middle alternative is imperative from the flagellation of the other extremities but it is a lonely route that marks a separation from friends, old values, and life ways. In Children of Koloko, Yoyo represents this third factor and his separation from his two friends, Dickie and Buff, finally marks his attainment of growth as we shall see later. With the choice enacted in full awareness of the sense of alienation engendered, progress is sure even if the social outcome of this progress in political and social discourse may be uncertain. 'May 29 1999', a historical poem on the inauguration of Nigeria's last democracy confronts us with the grotesque physical paunch and slovenliness of Nigeria's new civilian leadership which combine with poetic epithets to forecast political disaster. 'The curse of the triangle' is another slavery which the new government portends for the generality of the Nigerian people. Ce's cynicism has been justified in the society-evident lack of direction that rated that country one of the most corrupt nations on earth under the government of Olusegun Obasanjo. It is the fraud of nation building which Africa’s postcolonial founding fathers had mistaken for patriotism. Its impact on the younger generations to come is being witnessed in contemporary politics of attrition and dislocation of time honored traditional values, a situation that Chin Ce forewarns in his second fiction Gamji College.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture  JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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Mia Couto and the Holistic Choric Self by I Marques

Recreating the Broken Cosmic Order (Or: Relearning the Song that Truly Speaks…

 

TWO stories from Mia Couto's collection Contos do Nascer da Terra (Stories of the Birth of the Land) published in 1997 "The Little Girl Without Words: Second Story For Rita" and "The Little Moon-bird: First Story For Rita," demonstrate how the Mozambican contemporary writer recreates the traditional African holistic (choric/animistic) 'self' via the use of innovative language and narrative techniques –a self that has been overshadowed by both the colonial and postcolonial orders. Some similarities that exist between African traditional worldviews (epistemologies) and other worldviews such as Western psychoanalysis and Buddhism, could point to the idea that we might all have more in common than we think.We all seem to yearn for the connection with our choric/holistic self, even if often we do not know how to regain that connection due to the general fragmentation and spiritual alienation that tends to pervade our rationally ordered modern societies.

Couto's stories are generally characterized by a great emphasis on the traditional pre-colonial African ways of life and epistemologies: myth, orature, different cosmogonies, conceptions of time, the inter-relation between the world of the living and the world of the dead, as well as animistic and holistic perceptions of life, where humans, nature and the universe at large are connected in deep ways and often not perceived as separate entities. The characters of the stories are often people who live in rural areas, which in fact constitute the vast majority of Mozambique's citizens, or people who do not adhere completely to and show resistance towards the assimilation of Western cultural values brought about by both the colonization  and post-colonization processes. This suggests that Couto is interested in displaying the rural side of Mozambique, the side less touched by Western cultural values, less touched by the colonization and post-colonization processes: the endogenic/internal (or choric/coric) side of Mozambican cultures. As David Rothwell notes, Couto has always demonstrated an awareness of Portuguese and, more generally, Western influence on his work. Rather than recusing such influence, he understands and then distorts it. He disrupts the paradigms of Western orthodoxy as he fashions identity by turning European epistemology into a raw, repackageable material. (28)

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC No. 4

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Failed Heroes and Failed Memories by Chin Ce

Between the Alternatives of V.S. Naipaul’s Biswas and Mongo Beti’s Medza  

 

MOST of contemporary critical opinion about the West Indies is likewise connected with the colonial attitude toward Africa and endures in the general dilemmas of post colonial African states that emerged in the 20th century from crude amalgamations by their colonial founding masters. Colonial intrusions in Africa and other parts of the New World laid the seeds of more sophisticated tribal rivalries and conflicts at so-called independence. For instance, the Assimilation policy of the colonial French government in West Africa left a record of exploitation and dependency syndrome that put Africa’s economy perpetually on the receiving end. On the individual plank, French policy at best succeeded in the creation of a hybrid African whose destiny was failure in all political, social and economic fronts; the only redemptive alternative being the rejection of Europe’s Trojan gift of civilisation. In a bid to become African Frenchmen the new product of colonial education was made and encouraged to turn his back on his traditional values. This alienated attitude of self derision became part of the enduring notions of the westernised African. On the continental level African states after the imperial adventure became mere geographical curvatures that satisfied the predatory instincts of the west whose only morality had always been the force of the cudgel and their control of the instruments of propaganda and thought.

Of significance in this study is the West Indian (VS Naipaul) and African (Mongo Beti) novelists’ response to the consequences of the colonial encounter through the memories of their characters and the development of the post colonial dialogue in the minds and thoughts of individuals who are representatives of particular cultural and historical stages of growth and transformation. The writer's vision of history and the impact of his assessment, if borne from a continuing tradition of self analysis is the subject of this critical assessment bearing in mind the power of the creative medium of literature in developing and refashioning a credible response of people to history and experience.

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Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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Ngugi’s Marxist Aesthetics by MSC Okolo

A Philosophical Re-Imaging of Petals of Blood

 

THE central sense Marx understood aesthetics, also, it seems, applies to Ngugi (96), who sees literature as 'a reflection of the material reality under which we live.' The writer's primary responsibility in Ngugi's view is to channel his creative energy towards the production of the aesthetic devoted to the fight for freedom, exposing the distorted values integral to capitalist exploitative system and the struggle against exploitation in a class society. To carry out this task, a writer has to be sensitive to the class nature of the society and its influence on the imagination. Literature is part of the class power structures that shape our everyday life (Ngugi, xii). A writer's works invariably reflect the various struggles political, cultural, ideological, and economic going on in the society. Every literature is a commitment to a particular political ideology and every writer is a writer in politics (Ngugi xii). For literature to be meaningful it has to assume a revolutionary stance. Its focus must be on a critical appraisal of the economic structure of modern society, which is essential in getting a revolution going. Ngugi's ideal is for a literature that is committed, assertive, confrontational, which can bring about a more equitable change in human relations, especially, in the unbalanced relationship between the West and Africa and other third world countries. Truly,  literature is teleological; its goal must be to transform a given society. In this sense, the essential task of literature, at least for the African writer, is to act as a vehicle of liberation from European imperialistic capitalism, which has placed the West at the core and Africa and the third world at the periphery in economic and social relations. It is only a revolution that can restore to Africa and its people the self-image and confidence necessary for the radical transformation of society. Literature cannot stand apart from the social processes taking place in the society. Its thoroughly social character makes it partisan; literature takes sides especially in a class society (Ngugi 6). For this, the African writer must shun 'abstract notions of justice and peace' and actively support the 'actual struggle of the African peoples' and in his writing reflect 'the struggle of the African working class and its peasant class allies for the total liberation of their labour power' which alone provides the foundation for a socialist transformation of the society (Ngugi 80). In Ngugi's summation, Marxist oriented literature is the aesthetic viable for the future and the only literature worth producing by the writer.

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Available in African Literary Journal ALJ Vol 1 No. 2  2005

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Samuel Beckett, Wole Soyinka by JN Nkengasong

The Theatre of Desolate Reality     

 

IT is often asserted that African Literature was born in the cradle of adversity as an instrument of protest against colonial exploitation and cultural domination. This was in a bid to enforce African nationalism and to protect African culture from being completely obliterated by the overriding Western cultures. Writers on the continent and in the Diaspora therefore, sought to incorporate indigenous African values in their works to the effect that critics of African descent and some foreign scholars find interest mainly in works which treat such subject matter. This, a priori, is not objectionable. However, the slavish search for norms reflecting rudimentary African life, thought and culture in the varied works of African authors might have serious setbacks, the main one being the disregard for some masterpieces which might not after all lay stress on the desired tastes of indigenous African customs. The critic of Soyinka, for example, is most often infatuated with the playwright's abstruse incorporation of ritual, myth lore and idiom in his works. This is the tendency with Ulli Beier and Gerald Moore, eminent connoisseurs of Soyinka's creative art, who have so earnestly belaboured such themes in volumes of criticism. It is however questionable, if the supposed rich texture in plays like Soyinka's A Dance of the Forests and The Strong Breed offer more for thought than some of his "simpler" plays like The Swamp Dwellers. The resentment is against Moore's use of the expression "least substantial" to obliterate the latter work. He justifies this with the claim that the play offers "none of the extra devices that Soyinka usually employs to enrich his dramatic texture, ranging from verse and song, to dance, masquerade and pantomime" (16). This is certainly misleading because the quest for works which offer the "extra devices" may lead to the obliteration of works which although do not possess these devices may echo more important universal concerns which The Swamp Dwellers does.

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Text Available in Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC Vol 1 No. 3

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The Narratives of a Twice-Betrayed People by Marlene de la Cruz-Guzmán

Double Traumatization and the Decline of Nationalism in Yvonne Vera's Novel The Stone Virgins

 

YVONNE Vera designs her last novel The Stone Virgins (2002) as a counter-narrative to her overtly pro-nationalist novel Nehanda (1993). In doing so, she highlights the relevance of trauma theory and the decline of postcolonial Zimbabwean nationalism to her novels which opens narrative space for formerly marginalized voices from the liberation struggle and exposes the lies ingrained in the nationalist meta-narrative that these novels strive to counter. Thus, trauma theory and the concept of witness or testimonio literature will be used to explore the paradigm of double traumatization of the character Sibaso and its consequences for Zimbabwean civil society, and these will authenticate and provide clinical support for Vera's representation of trauma in both Nehanda and The Stone Virgins.

The theoretical paradigm of double traumatization in relation to postcolonial texts allows this article to open a new space for the analysis of previously marginalized voices that are now being acknowledged and validated in the process of clarifying that their experiences stem from two separate but intertwined assaults on their existence. It is here asserted that the indigenous Zimbabwean populations to whom Vera gives voice in her literary works have experienced a double traumatization that, combined with a post-independence decline in nationalism, fosters an environment in which peoples who were first assaulted by European colonial forces suffer a second even more difficult betrayal trauma from the most unexpected source: fellow indigenous people working under the banner of Zimbabwean Nationalism. While the first betrayal strengthened the people's reliance on one another both as members of the oppressed community and as potential partners in the fight for independence, the second betrayal seems to alienate and to obliterate their basic belief in and practice of hunhu. This psychic shift is an additional detrimental side effect of the assaults which is particularly relevant in an analysis of the character of Sibaso, arguably the least logical choice in the novel of an author who strives to provide a voice for marginalized women, but it is this very illogicality that renders this study able to draw a more thorough analysis of the double traumatization experienced by all the testimonio-providing characters.

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Available in Journal of African LiteratureJAL No.5

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Feminine Archetypes in Ossie Enekwe's Poetry by Catherine Schneider

 

GAYLE Rubin and Barbara Melosh in their book Modern Literary Theory: A Reader posit that “gender” is socially constructed. Their classic example comes from Nineteenth-century Victorian culture which Melosh notes,

described sexual difference in terms of the duties and obligations that followed from men's and women's inherent characteristics. Women's moral superiority made them ideal wives and mothers, charged with the solemn responsibility of guiding errant children and men. (“Introduction” 7)

Many socially constructed notions have been perpetuated through the literary works and philosophies of many societies. Elaine Showalter in her paper “Towards a Feminist Poetics” of the opinion that when “we study stereotypes of women, the sexism of male critics, and the limited roles women play in literary history, we are not learning what women have felt and experienced, but what men have thought women should be” (34-36). Hence recent Feminist interest in literary criticism is directed at exposing how ideas of gender, gender relationship are constructed and transmitted through literary works. This becomes the objective of this paper, from a Feminist theory, to assess how Onuora Enekwe's portrayal of women pander to archetypal inscriptions of women as either mother (the Madonna) or destroyer (la femme fatale) – masculinist portraitures which aid in entrenching contestable notions and myths of male superiority and female inferiority. In contesting phallocentric systems of thought and dismantling logocentricism, Feminist criticism challenges Masculinist female (mis)perceptions and (mis)presentations while simultaneously deconstructing patriarchal “systems of thought which legitimize themselves by reference to some presence or point of authority prior to and outside of themselves “ (Hawthorn 130).

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Available in Critical Supplement Onuora Ossie Enekwe CS (A)2

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History, Memory and Tradition in African Poetry by Sarah Anyang Agbor

 

POETRY has become a means of remembering history and documenting the oral lore of a people. It is a medium of transposing the culture of the people as well as exposing the abnormalities within it through memory. This study points to the function of African poetry, to educate, entertain, and moralize. It examines attempts to deploy elements of orality, history and memory in through poetry.

Niyi Osundare belongs to the third generation of Nigerian poets along with Odia Ofeimun, Tanure Ojaide, Ezenwa-Ohaeto and Olu Oguibe while Dasylva can be pitched in the fourth generation poets along with the host of Chin Ce, Esiaba Irobi, Onookome Okome, Uche Nduka, Chiedu Ezeanah, Usman Shehu, Kemi Atanda-Ilori, Idzia Ahmad, Sesan Ajayi, Remi Raji, Nnimmo Bassey, Toyin Adewale, Joe Ushie, Maik Nwosu, (Ushie 22-23) etc. It has been noted that the third generation poetry is characterised by social contradictions that are "resolved in favour of the masses" (Aiyejina 122), while the fourth and younger generation are more forceful in expression because their “impatience” with the prevailing condition of their country “has widened in dimensions of anger, hate, contempt and sheer distrust for the prevailing status quo” (Ce 18).

By definition, memory is the “mental faculty of retaining and recalling past experience based on the mental processes of learning, retention, recall, and recognition” (Stedman par.1). Poetic memory recollects past events or history (his story) which are can be couched in orality. Maurice Taonezvi Vambe notes how the notion of orality is broad and elastic, “including everything from allegory, folktale, spirit possession, fantasy and myth to ancestor veneration, ritual, legends, proverbs, fables and jokes”(235).

The recourse to orality in Africa is an attempt by her writers “to gain aesthetic independence from Western traditions involved the revitalisation of traditional African cultural modes. It was perceived that the use of elements of African oral traditions could become a powerful tool in the establishment of an alternative, oppositional discourse” (MacKenzie 348). Because of the influence and history of colonialism, the indigenous people resorted to their oral culture to create a sense of belonging and identity against imposed Eurocentric traditions. As Maurice Vambe states: “Colonialism's attempt to suppress African culture (had) instead (produced) a united community with the single aim of achieving freedom” (235).

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Available in The Journal of New Poetry NP No.6

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'Closer to Wordsworth' by Kola Eke

Nature and Pain in Chin Ce's Full Moon poems  

 

FEW African poets have been concerned with nature and the natural world in contrast to English poets who have written much more on nature. In Chin Ce's poetic universe, mind and nature act and react upon each other to generate a network of pleasure and pain.In his theme poem, "Full Moon", there is the attempt to elevate moonlighting above the ordinary pleasure of communal life. It is a poem of the mind and its relations to the external world, signified in the "moon". The description of the moonlight compels one's participation with the speaker:

The passions gather with violent

crackling and nothing

can stop the animated fire. (33)

The influence of nature upon him is such that the "moon" is perceived as living. With Chin Ce, the moonlight should no longer be taken for granted, it is now gifted with passionate and energetic feelings. These very few lines show that one moment of communion with the great moods and beams of moonlight can generate enough "wisdom"... The speaker and the moonlight as travellers run into each other. Here, "crossroads" may suggest a sense of universality. It might be tempting to think of the poem as a dramatic monologue or lyric. There is some form of dialogue between the speaker and the moon, but this is revealed from the discourse of the single speaker...Although "Full Moon" is spoken by one person as he walks in the "woods" by moonlight, it does not have all the features of a dramatic monologue. For one thing, the foundation of the poem is not the revelation of the speaker's temperament but the development of his observation and feelings.

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Available in Critical Supplement The Works of Chin Ce CS (A)1

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British Racial Problems and the Poetry of Fred D’Aguiar by Dilek Sarikaya

 

FRED D’Aguiar is black British poet whose poetry gives voice to the problems of black immigrants who were considered as the problem groups by the British public during the 1970s and the 1980s. Fred D’Aguiar was born in England but was sent back to Guyana at the age of two, to live with his grandmother during his childhood (Slade 1). D’Aguiar focuses on the problem of racism and its negative effects on the lives of black people in his poetry. He concentrates on both contemporary racism and colonial racism, and the psychological trauma of the black people caused by racism. D’Aguiar inclines to dwell upon the cultural alienation and psychological isolation of the black people in a completely foreign society, and their feelings of exile in a different society together with their desire to return back to their black African roots. The aim of this article, therefore, is to study Fred D’Aguiar’s poetry in terms of the problems of immigration and racism which shape social and political circumstances of Britain during the 1970s and the 1980s.

Racism, an “ideology of racial domination based on (i) beliefs that a designated racial group is either biologically or culturally inferior and (ii) the use of such beliefs to rationalize or prescribe the racial group’s treatment in the society” (Bulmer and Solomos 4), has been a highly contested issue playing a socially and politically important role on the contemporary global platform. Attributing different origins to each human community, racism aims at creating cultural, social and class barriers between people. The configuration of racial issues in contemporary Britain goes back to the social, economic and cultural impact of mass immigration after World War II, which took place after the loss of the British empire at the end of the 1940s (Solomos 3). The gradual racial re-structuring of Britain has been determined by its economic and Capitalistic interests which were essentially instrumental in regulating immigration to Britain (Brown 7). The homogenised structure of Britain is changed into a multiracial structure; as stated by Ian Spencer, “Britain had ceased to be a white man’s country” (2). This multiracial structure brought about a series of problems for the black people like “struggles to achieve equal opportunity, fairness in criminal justice system, equal access to good housing and obtaining satisfactory education” (Goulbourne 75). The problems of “health, social and community services” were the issues that immigrants had to face during the process of their integration into British society (Goulbourne 75). Entangled within such unpredicted problems as an outcome of immigration, Britain found itself endeavouring to restructure its social, political and economic laws according to the problems of immigrants. Black immigration was conceived as a threat endangering the British way of life since those people who immigrated to Britain, instead of incorporating themselves into the mainstream British culture, tried to preserve their own racial identity by creating a kind of counter-cultural identity in opposition to Britishness.

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Available in The Journal of African Literature JAL  9

 

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