Much has been written on the African writer's problem of audience. What has not been noted, insofar as I am aware, is the effect this question had on African literary criticism in its early years. The fact that African critics took up the question, however consciously or unconsciously, means that the eventual impact on the literature itself will be even more profound than one might otherwise have expected, for criticism has the double function of expressing the past -- in this case, a concern with cultural identity -- and of affecting -- and effecting -- the future directions in which African literature is likely to move in response to it. The restlessness with which African critics have dealt with the problem of audience indicates the pervasiveness of the question of cultural identity and autonomy in contemporary thinking. Even more significant is the fact that the critics' discussion of this problem has not remained academic and theoretical; it has been put into practice. The question of audience was in fact applied by African critics as a critical standard by which specific works of African literature were judged in the two decades following World War II.
African literary criticism, like everything else, did not develop in a vacuum. In fact, the world milieu in which it did develop was so politically and emotionally charged -- not to say economically and culturally controlled by the West -- that African critics encountered difficult problems in establishing the standards by which they evaluated African literature. In some cases, these standards seemed to be, if not contradictory, at least superficially difficult to reconcile with one another. The question of African literature for whom? has been one such area of confusion. Should this new, emerging literature be directed toward the West? Should it be directed inwardly, toward Africa itself? Or, what is a more confusing but tempting possibility, should it be aimed in both directions at once? A survey of the criticism suggests that