Post-Colonial Reading Strategies and the Problem of Cultural Meaning in African/Black1 Literary Discourse

By Fashina, Nelson O. | The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online), July 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Post-Colonial Reading Strategies and the Problem of Cultural Meaning in African/Black1 Literary Discourse


Fashina, Nelson O., The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)


Abstract

This paper is part of the author's research into the possibility of carving a distinct critical canon for the reading of African/Black literature. It has been observed that postcolonial theory is fraught with many assumptionist errors, one of which is to read all postcolonial discourses as if they are products of the same cultural, aesthetic and historical consequences. Another problem is the shallow application of Western induced meanings on the rather cryptic semiotic and semantic cultural meanings of African writings, arts and aesthetics, which often lead to misinterpretations of the emotions and signatures of 'Africanness' and blackness in the works. Thus, the prefixes 'pre' and 'post' to which Western critical theories attach base-morphemes like 'colonial', 'modernism', 'structuralism', etc are no African categories of reading and signifying meaning. The paper argues and illustrates that African names of humans, flora and fauna, and objects as used in African literary and cultural discourses are ritualistic and historical. They carry some dense sacred meanings. Drawing examples of colonial misconceptions, the paper interrogates Jean Copans' claim on the eve of the 21st century that "there is nothing like African studies ?" and conflates this with Biodun Jeyifo's Soyinka Nobel Anniversary lecture (2006) to interrogate his ideological construction that present generation of African scholars are "Unfortunate children of fortunate parents" of the second and third generations. It draws practical examples and concludes that there is a domain of cultural meaning requiring the services of active bearers of the tradition to decode.

Keywords: postcolonial, African/Black discourse, Copans, Jeyifo, sacred meanings, prefix, decode.

One of the greatest intellectual bugs in African Studies since the 1950s has been the nationalist search for African cultural, literary, social and political emancipation anchored on the quest for universal acceptance and recognition. There has been an artificial and human created perplexing cultural identity problem which has not only challenged intra-African studies but has also misunderstood the transformational cultural and semiotic codes that govern the production of African cultural continuities in the Diaspora. Arguably, the 1980s qualify as the golden age of African discourse emancipation when the decade is weighed on the balance of an ambiguous cultural appropriation and resistance to Euro-American models of literary interpretation2. However, the 1990s till date has witnessed attempts at discourse cultural revivalism and redefinitions that are distilled from "the voiced and unvoiced stories and interpretations of African conditions before, during and after colonialism" (Parker and Starker, 1995:11).

The consciousness to create a code for African cultural interpretation informed the first International Congress of Negro Writers and Artists held in Paris in 1956 with focus on the "The Crisis in Negro Culture". Subsequent conferences and congresses of African-American writers and critics have examined the negative impact of writing or book-culture (literary theory and interpretation) on the drive for a black critical aesthetics (Fashina, 1997:11). Several cultural genetic factors foreground this sense of nationalism and pan-Africanist conciousness. Among them was the need to create a theory of Africanism and Blackness, which is distilled from the homogeneous pattern of emotive and mythical interpretations of values in contrast to the European induced images and conceptions of our universe. This is what Abiola Irele (1990:54) describes as "the organic aspect of African imagination" and what Fashina 1994:73) indicates as "the symbiotic aspect of African collective consciousness".

Quite against this strive for African nationalist consciousness in culture and literary studies is the European standard interpretation of African studies as mere mental construct than a researchable reality.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Post-Colonial Reading Strategies and the Problem of Cultural Meaning in African/Black1 Literary Discourse
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.