African Literature, African Critics: The Forming of Critical Standards, 1947-1966

By Rand Bishop | Go to book overview

5 Realisms, African Reality, and the African Past

In the two decades following World War II, many African writers and critics felt a compelling urge to further an African presence in the world as a way of refuting the European myth of a primitive, savage Africa. In addition, African critics have in large numbers followed the doctrine of la littérature engagée In both instances, there is a similar concern with the nonliterary realities in which African literature found itself after World War II. In the former, the African reality was used to combat an erroneous and often arrogant view of the superiority of European culture; in the latter, to publicize and then attempt to solve the various social, economic, and political problems that Africa faced. At the outset of modern African literature these problems were readily laid at the feet of the colonial powers; later, engagement came to mean more the facing of the internal problems of independent African nations. In both cases, however, the realism required for the projection of an African presence into the world, both at home and abroad, may be seen as readily consonant with the term littérature; engagée

It is interesting to speculate as to whether this set of attitudes led to what might be called the Creighton definition of African literature, proposed by Professor T. R. M. Creighton and accepted at both the First International Congress of Africanists ( Accra, December 1962) and the Freetown conference of 1963 or whether this definition influenced the direction of subsequent African criticism. Quite probably both situations are true, though in what proportion is difficult to say. In any case, a strong leaning toward realism can readily be seen in a statement that says African literature is "any work in which an African setting is authentically handled, or to which experiences which originate in Africa are integral" ( Creighton, 84). And while the Creighton definition does not seem to have been widely accepted by African writers

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African Literature, African Critics: The Forming of Critical Standards, 1947-1966
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Languages of African Literature 27
  • 3 - African Literature for Whom? the Question of Audience 47
  • 4 - The Making of a Literary Tradition 59
  • 5 - Realisms, African Reality, and the African Past 79
  • 6 - African Literature, Littérature Engagée 111
  • 7 - Negritude and the Critics 141
  • 8 - Conclusions 169
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 205
  • About the Author *
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