Indigenous tradition and the colonial legacy : a study in the social context of anglophone African literary criticism.

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation attempts to examine the social meanings of anglophone African literary criticism as an ideological discourse. It begins by engaging with Marxist critical traditions, with particular reference to two areas of debate: the question of the epistemological relationship between literature and criticism, and the question of criticism's being a discourse which, in its articulation with a given social context, relies on the resources of a particular critical heritage. The basis of the second and central chapter is the interrelationship between the context and heritage of anglophone African criticism. The dominant themes of this discourse are seen as being shaped by ideological affiliations with the modern nation-state, and by the legacy of the empirical and organic traditions of metropolitan criticism. It is argued that in the situation of neo-colonial social stratification, anglophone African criticism faces a crisis of legitimacy. In the third to fifth chapters I attempt to illustrate and refine the central argument in relation to a selection of critical texts. The chapter on two works by Eldred Jones examines his reliance on orthodox British critical assumptions and its consequences in his treatment of the writing of Wole Soyinka. The chapter on West African traditions examines a range of critical operations which are used in the construction of organic traditions based on oral or traditional cultures. These operations rely on mythopoesis, formalism and the sociology of literature. The final chapter on East African political readings investigates the internal, discursive tensions in the work of two critics who, in attempting to politicize their reading of literature, have not been able to achieve a conceptual break from the legacies of idealism.

Bibliography: leaves 219-229.