Proverbs, Textuality, and Nativism in African Literature

Proverbs, Textuality, and Nativism in African Literature

Proverbs, Textuality, and Nativism in African Literature

Proverbs, Textuality, and Nativism in African Literature

Synopsis

In one of the first studies to connect anglophone literary criticism with African localist tendencies of nativism, Adeeko argues that nativism is a highly productive and intensely generative category in the formation of African literature and criticism. He shows the complexities of nativism (the call for authenticity and identity) both in writing and criticism and proposes that virtually all influential African criticism and writing can be discussed under any combination of three varieties of nativism: classical, structuralist, and linguistic.

In the process of arguing that the nativist temperament is not alien to contemporary literary theory and that the theories do not negate the motivating spirit of nativism, Adeeko offers a self-reflexive reading of representative oral and written, national and ethnic African literatures. He suggests a deconstructive reading of Yoruba meta-proverbs and connects the critical arts of such well-known writers as Chinua Achebe (Arrow of God), Ayi Kwei Armah (Thousand Seasons), and Ngugi wa Thiongo (Devil on the Cross) to those of other national and ethnic writers like Femi Osofisan (Kolera Kolej) and Oladejo Okediji (Rere Run).

Excerpt

Since 1962, the year of the now-famous Makerere African Writers' conference and also the year Heinemann Educational Books created its influential African Writers series, anglophone African literary criticism has been preoccupied with devising strategies for indigenizing the substance and language of its governing principles. All leading African writers and critics have participated in formulating the parameters for devising a metalanguage and a hermeneutic predisposition that will reflect the importance of indigenous forms to the definition, classification, and appreciation of African culture. The theoretical complexity of these nativist engagements in literary criticism is the central theme of this book.

In the opening chapter, "My Signifier Is More Native than Yours," I divide the different philosophies of cultural and intellectual self-assertion in anglophone African literary criticism into three categories: classical or thematic nativism, structuralist nativism, and linguistic nativism. Classical nativists take African literature to be that which, in the best traditions of what they argue is an irreducible African aesthetic, addresses the everyday material concerns of the African reading public in readily accessible forms. Structuralist nativists think of an African literature as that which has as its sources conventions and philosophies of representation derived from recognizably indigenous practices. The structuralists look for how to join precolonial narrative and interpretive forms to more modern techniques. In linguistic nativism, literatures are taken to be second-order language use defined and described by the material languages in which they are written. For the linguists, to be called African a body of works must be written in languages that are native to Africa. All of the nativist groups agree on the need for African culture producers to avoid any self-conscious artistry that might inhibit . . .

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