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African Literature topics discussed

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African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:46 am

Topic:
Realism is a recurrent mode of writing in modern African literature. Discuss, focusing on two novels which, in your view, qualify as realistic works.
This is the first topic we have on the contest topics page! It's in Af Lit "my God". I guess we are not doing well in Af lit this year! Anyway we have to try and to exchange ideas.

I'm going to start saying what I think about the topic in general than we'll go on in the discussion developing the arguments. bka1

I think that I have first to talk about Realism as a mode of writing and how was it applied by African writers and especially "Why". Then I have to chose the works I'm going to rely on in my essay and I think I'll chose Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart since it's considered as "the first great African realist novel"! And we can use the view of Achebe to the function of Art in society and how he described his art as "applied art" in opposition to "art for art's sake". I think I shall emphasise on the commitment in art and how did the African used it as a healing and for reconstructing the past. I can use then Ngugi's A Grain of Wheat and show he's socialist dimension and how is it related to realism in my point of view.

What do you think?
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Ezinma on Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:01 pm

Hi,
Thank you sooo much to choose Af lit topic to be discussed first, and sorry for the late reply, it’s been three days since you posted it I know !!! Embarassed Embarassed
Concerning Af lit it seems like last year's jinx is still going on this year ! (no teachers confused Suspect !!) .
I agree with you strongly that we discuss Things Fall Apart and A Grain of Wheat in our
essay, but still --and please don’t say « if I were you I wouldn't say difficult…. » I’m sure that if I choose to answer this topic I’ll just do it in a clumsy way.I'll stick about summarising the plot!. The reason is that I have a little background on Things fall Apart ( I read it twice though !!!) . bka1

I do like the way you chose to proceed with your discussion,I mean you talk about the view of Achebe to the function of art in society ….Thanks Hush a lot you’re of a great help!!. I’ve got just a small question : will you pls explain what’s « applied art » ….and pls what do you mean by the role of art a healin to reconstruct the past ( I’ve an idea in my mind, but I'm not quiet sure) ???
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:38 pm

Hello,

The notion of "applied art" is used by Achebe in opposition to that of "Pure Art" or let's say "Art for Art's sake". Applied art is a functional one; an art that has a mission beyond being mere beauty. It's almost the undertaking of all African writers since they think their duty is to reconstruct what have been distorted by the west. I mean by reconstruction of the past, the rehabilitation of the African mind and culture. The African man and continent have been subject to a bulk of distortion and subversion. A lot of Western literary works portray them as savages, without any culture and sometimes even as slaves-to-be only. If you read Robinson Crusoe for example you'll find the following passage:" For who would have supposed we were sailed on to the southward to the truly barbarian coast, where whole nations of Negroes were sure to surround us with their canoes, and destroy us; where we could ne'er once go on shore but we should be devoured by savage beasts, or more merciless savages of humankind"*.

So for Achebe and his peers, its a matter of setting the record straight and to swip away the idea of Africa as "The Dark continent". Achebe himself said:" There is then an adequate revolution for me to espouse, to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of self-denegration and self-abasement and it is essentially a question of education in the best sens of that word."


The problem of Africans is that they haven't written their history by themselves, not because they haven't one, but because they have an oral tradition. It means their history is written in the memories of its people, especially the elders ( from here we have the importance of the elders who are the detainers of history). In Things Fall Apart Achebe tries to restore this past by showing that before the coming of the white man, a well-organized society was there and a people that lives in harmony.

The question to be asked is how is it realistic since the setting of the novel is not the "here and now"? I think that the unswer is in the technique of verysimilitude. Another element that contributes to the realistic aspect of TFA is the fact that Achebe is a native who belongs to the Igbo society so he knows well what he's writing about. Achebe also warned his peers from creating a pure fancy and trying to mythify Africa to the point of rendering it "The Garden Of Eden" and I think this is clear when he tried to portray both the bright sides of the Igbo society and the dark ones. The best exemple is the one about the killing of Ikemefuna.

That's just my opinion, I hope It's gonna help us developing more the discussion.



* Defoe Daniel, Robinson Crusoe. Penguin Popular Classics (1994)

PS: You're most welcome and no need to thank me since I'm learning from you too and the more people debating we have the best it is.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Ezinma on Mon Mar 30, 2009 12:02 am

Hi,
Just I'd like to carry on discussing this topic. I've been really sluggish lately, so I didn't post a reply or something. I undertood well the notion 'applied art' and ' art for art's sake' through your explanation, and from the documents you posted.
Now, concerning the second part of the discussion which is I think about Ngugi's A Grain of Wheat, I need your help Embarassed . I'm sorry! I know I'm supposed to discuss it too, but again you're doing the job alone. Sorry!!. My question is : What do you mean by Ngugi's social dimension??
We did mostly the stylistic study last year, the techniques employed by Ngugi, and we tackled some themes. Only this year I think I heard my teacher talking about Ngugi’s philanthropist attitude towards humanity!!!!.When he treats Mugo for e.g. with a humane sympathy because he confessed his betrayal.
What I understood also is that Ngugi tries to find out the reasons behind all the problems in africa, which remain even after its independence.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Mon Mar 30, 2009 3:17 am

You're having part in the discussion and if you say that you are sluggish so what about the ghosts we have in this forum! Anyway, we have to carry on in spite of the scarceness of the debaters! I know what we did last year in African Literature and what we're doing this year and no comment!

For Ngugi's A Grain of Wheat represents a paradigm shift in Ngugi's thought, since he turned to Marxism after being a staunch defender of cultural nationalism in his previous works.

When I said "a social dimension" I meant Ngugi's commitment and work in favor of his society especially his eagerness to reconstruct it and to decolonize it in a Fanonist fashion (I believe we cannot understand Ngugi without reading Frantz Fanon) and I would give this quotation Fanon: " We must work and fight with the same rhythm as the people to construct the future and to prepare the ground where vigorous shoots are already springing up. A national culture is not a folklore, nor an abstract populism that believes it can discover a people’s true nature… A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify and praise the action through which a people has created itself and keeps itself in existence".

You've mentioned the theme of philanthropy which I think should be related to the biblical self-sacrifice. We have Kihika who's seen as the one who sacrifices himself for the benefit of the nation, as Jesus did! He is the wheat that shall die so that others shall live. Kihika didn't really believe in religion but he used it to galvanize the people to revolt. And we should not forget that Ngugi was Christian before he rejected Christianity which he thought a form of colonialism. He has also turned from writing in English to writing in Gikuyu his mother tongue, because he thought the language a tool to master the minds of the colonized (Fanon's influence here is undeniable).

The same question I've asked with Achebe's novel I would ask again, because we have to stick to the topic and not be far fetching, so what is realistic about The Grain Of Wheat since Kihika is not an ordinary man? I would leave the care of the answer for you...
.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Ezinma on Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:04 pm

Let’s carry on discussing the topic.. Again I express my sincere apology for the late reply. nimportwak

Your question last time was what is realistic about A Grain of Wheat since Kihika is not an ordinary man ?

Well here comes the answer :

Firstly, I’d like to add to what you said previously about « Ngugi’s commitment and work in favour to his society ». He depicts the effects of the colonial power and the Mau Mau rebellion on individuals and families in Kenya, to try to find solutions to the problems in Kenya . Ngugi talked about the importance of the commitment to the community saying « I am a product of the community and I would like to contribute something to that community ». Morever, his own view to the concept art for art’s sake which he believes « is foreign to the African mind », makes us consider his novel a realistic piece of writing. The real work for him become meaningful only if it’s related to the community as a whole and not aimed to serve individual purposes. This didactic function of Ngugi’s A Grain of Wheat is what makes it realistic on one hand. On the other hand, the novel portrays how the colonial situation influenced deeply the Kenyan society, and as Kenyan his description is evident and is based on his own experiences when he was a boy. He explains that his literary production and most noticeably A Grain of Wheat is arising from his experinces saying :« My writing is really an attempt to understand myself and my situation in society and in history. As I write I remmeber the nights of fighting in my father’s house…my elder brother, Wallace Mwangi, runnig to the cover and security of the forest under a hail of bullets from Colonial policemen…I remmeber the fears, the betrayals…the moments of dispair and love and kinship in struggle and I try to find the meaning of it all through my men. » Secret Lives.P27

This is what makes the novel realistic… Another element that contributes to its realistic aspect and the answer to your question is that Ngugi is acquainted with the freedom fighters, his brother and his cousin for instance were fighters. They and their fellow fighters were the heroes, they strived towards ultimate good for their village. This is the case of kihika, the legendary hero of his village, he is the symbol of the real brave heroes of Kenya.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:51 am

I've written a long post then I just couldn't post it because I feel no one is interested (except you Asma), so if I posted and so what?! I am sorry but I feel bad because it seems we're in a dead land...
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by moh on Sun May 10, 2009 11:31 pm

I feel like I have to interfeer hier.I have being reading your postes Hush,and I'v noticed two things:
first I personaly think that u are excelent in literature.and I smell "a majistèr" in your words.than, I would like to tell you that a good painting still a good one what ever how many eyes have seen it.
we are intrested HUSH,and I appreciate you.keep going I say becouse if we are not advencing,for sure we are retreating.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by imy on Sun May 17, 2009 9:55 pm

keep going hush.i'm a new member and i am really interested in what you are saying.i would like to pass the test of THE M A.I THINK IT's because we have a limited knowldge about african literature YOUR INFORMATION ARE WORTHY TO STUDY AND VALUABLE.I would agree with moh your lge and information are of MA.what i can say is that Things Fall Apart IS REALISTIC because : First ,ACHEBE is acquainted with his socity, he knows very well what happened and that is through his father and his grand father since the story is said to be part real , a portray of life of his ancestors.Second from the depiction of life and events, Thinks Fall Apart is said to be an" archetyple novel" since it depicts what would happen to any african country that could be colonized. There way of life,oral traditions and customs are highly highlighted THROUGH THE NOVEL(I MEAN IGBO PEOPLE ) .I disagree with you in the second, Ngugi is "situational or communel novel"more naturalistic than realistic mainly because of the depiction of characters who are determined and are portrayed as victimes of society;with the existing of aspects of modernism in it :"stream of conciounss and monologues"in addition to the fragmented plot and the themes such as "humanity". I really can't see why you have chosen it as realistic piece of writing?????? about FANOUN "white masks black skin " deals with this confrontation of black and white,FANOUN discusses what happend to the psyche of black people after meeting this white."inferiority and superiority complex should be discussed here.in addition to that the "notion of OTHERNESS " .i just don't know how is it worthy to talk about "fanoun and ngugi"here. actually,i'm new in african literature since i'm third year student but it's what i have about the two novels.Excuse my mistakes and style ,i'll be very pleased if we continue the discussion."better late than never" Smile
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Sun May 17, 2009 11:02 pm

Hello Imy and allow me to express my happiness and joy to have ou among us because we needed people who are interested in dealing with serious matters and have a good background so that we may develop the real topics. You're post is really interesting and I'll try to give it a continuation. you said

imy wrote: I really can't see why you have chosen it as realistic piece of writing??????

You've answered the question yourself since you've said the novel is naturalistic Smile

Fanon is important in so far as talking about language, and as you know Ngugi turned to Kikuyu, so don't you think that using one's language isn't realist enough, or at least has something to do with realism?
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by I-atmosphere-m on Mon May 18, 2009 1:14 pm

hi; 1st i want to talk about Ngugi use of Gikuyu. FOR Ngugi language is not only a mean for people to describe the world yet it is a mean to understand themselves.Ngugi blieves that wrting in english will erase all memories and taditions of pre colonial era that why he thinks that the best way to prserve their traditions and to communicate their present is writing in their own language .in other word Ngugi BLIEVES that LANGUAGE and culture are inseparable as he said "language as comunication and as culture are products of each other".concerning grain of wheat i agree withe imy that it is naturalistic more than realistic . ok its clear that naturalism is continuation to realism ( it means dipicting reality)yet they are diffrent otherwise we wont have the tow movements.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by imy on Mon May 18, 2009 8:18 pm

thanks hush i will be very pleased to continue.ok i do agree with you in this points.but aren't there any other african literazture that have a link to realism??? I THINK THE MAJORITY ARE MODERNISTIC ,aren't they?.I DO LIKE AFRICAN LITERATURE although it's complex. flower
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Mon May 18, 2009 9:45 pm

imy wrote:thanks hush i will be very pleased to continue.ok i do agree with you in this points.but aren't there any other african literazture that have a link to realism??? I THINK THE MAJORITY ARE MODERNISTIC ,aren't they?.I DO LIKE AFRICAN LITERATURE although it's complex. flower

There are plenty of Realist writers and realist works, we have mentioned Achebe and Ngugi because most people know them, but you can mention others. Just have a look on this site:

Click here
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by imy on Tue May 19, 2009 8:04 pm

[b][b][b][b][b]THANKS HUSH I WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU DID.I THINK IT'S BETTER TO LET GOD REWARD YOU.MAY GOD BLESS YOU.
Embarassed
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Guest on Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:20 pm

thx all

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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:48 am

Hello, I wanted to post a new thing, a sample essay written by a student during an MA. I post it for practical analysis. That's in no way a claim for a prototypical essay but just a sample that should allow us to criticise (constructive) it for a better mastery of the practical side.

The contest topic was: What's the influence of African fiction on the African society and History with reference to two African works.

The Essay:

Fiction is not a mere imagination weaved out of a passive reflection on society and history. It transcends the scope of the fictive world to have its Impact on the real one. The literary text not only voices a given aspect of society and history in a given period, but also, shapes, re-shapes and even creates a new reality and prophesies promising aspirations. This essay is an attempt to shed light upon influence of fiction on the African society and history in the reading of two outstanding African works: Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. First, I’ll tackle the perceptions endowed by the study of Achebe’s work since it is settled in the pre-colonial Africa. Then I will shift to Armah’s first novel and focus on its influence on the post-colonial Africa, to finally assess the role that has been performed by the African Fiction.

Achebe’s Thing Fall Apart is a valuable African work since it challenged the western idea
of colonization as a benevolent mission of civilization and salvation. It rather shows that Africans possessed a civilization and a culture worth considering. It not only deconstructs the western view of Africa as “the heart of darkness” as Conrad calls it, (also Stanley and Livingstone before him) but in addition reminds his people about their valuable past before the coming of the Whitman. Achebe sets his novel in the pre-colonial Africa, where the Igbo society lived in harmony with African norms. Achebe portrays the ceremonies held by the Igbo people and cheers their sense of community. He depicts the hierarchical system that ruled the society and how titles are granted for those who deserve them. Achebe’s novel reworks the image of the pre-colonial Africa with a powerful fictional work.


Although Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is set in the post-colonial Africa, its influence is no less important for the African society. The novel is a diagnosis for the illness of the so-called independent Ghana. It’s a survey on the putrefaction and the decay of the post-colonial Ghana. Armah denounces the moral decadence of his people. An illustration for that moral decline is bribery that became a fashion and a normal act. Armah’s fiction plays the role of a doctor diagnosing the illness before healing it. His pejorative fiction set him as an iconoclast who seeks a better future for the African peoples.

African writers are not passive spectators that set their fiction out of passive reflection; they are meaningful players in the arena of history and society. Writers such as Achebe, Armah, Ngugi or Soyinka among others have settled a strong counter-discourse to respond to the western distorted view on the African continent.

The African fiction goes beyond the fictive world to manifest itself in the real world. It
not only heals the distorted past of Africa but paves the way to a brighter future. The role of the African fiction is undeniable in establishing an African identity and makes of art a powerful means of existence.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Hush on Fri Jul 10, 2009 1:46 am

I've forgotten that I posted that one day! Anyway since there's no comments I'll try to give two comments I think useful, may be one day they will help someone!

There are two major elements this essay misses. First it lacks illustration, the examples that are given are not enough at all. Don't forget that it's a literary essay not a sociological or historical one.
Second there is a serious problem in transitions, there is no concluding sentence for each paragraph and the beginning of the paragraphs misses transitions. That's what I think.
May Allah help those who help themselves.
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Ezinma on Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:37 pm

Amen!

All these elements are missing!. Truly, I don't have keen eyes. Thank you for your help, but first for the essay.

May Allah reward those who help others.
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Ezinma

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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by adam on Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:48 pm

hi friends you must read lot about Mr Achebe.as an Aferican writer .

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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by starlight on Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:36 pm

thnx alot hush.............
................ ur so great....
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Re: African Literature topics discussed

Post by Dutty Nes on Fri Mar 18, 2011 11:48 pm

Please can some one tell me aim behind studying Af Lit?
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