African Novel And The Study Of English Literature

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

African Novel And The Study Of English Literature


The study aims at finding out why more students shy away from Literature in English in the Secondary Schools, using the analysis of some African novels from different African regions to show how close Literature is to life and why students should develop interest in it and study it.

The sociological approach to criticism was employed in the analysis of the prose writings of some selected novelists from four African regions, namely: Anglophone, Francophone, Eastern and Southern Africa. The regional peculiarities of these novels was looked at, pointing out the relationship between them and the socio-cultural background of the students and how this can positively influence their interest in the learning of Literature in English.

Apart from taking cognisance of the benefits derivable from the study of Literature in English, the study began by taking a look at literature in general; its functions and the implications for the study of Literature in English and the novel as an aspect of prose literature.

A visit was paid to schools to collect relevant data which was analyzed appropriately. Conclusions were then drawn and recommendations made.

Chapter One

1.1 Introduction

Literature is so important in our everyday life, but we all take it for granted. The ordinary man hardly bothers about finding out the role of literature in the society or what role it plays in his own personal life. This complacent attitude is perhaps responsible for the success of the advocates of technological development in undercutting the values traditionally attached to literature and other subjects in the arts.

Today, few parents encourage their children to choose literature in English as a subject. Even government policy does not favour the subject as it is regarded as a “less useful” subject. Admission quotas in higher institutions for literary studies have similarly suffered radical reduction.

The logical outcome of this kind of attitude is the ultimate removal of this subject from the school curricula, thereby bringing the socio-cultural values it propagates into extinction. Though, this possibility is actually remote, it nonetheless raises some fundamental questions like: What, for instance, would happen to society should literature cease to exist? Why in the first place did the traditional society develop literature to the extent that even today, the modem society is the rich inheritor of both oral and written forms of literature? What does literature do for society to make some society so proud of their literary achievements and so committed to the continued promotion of their national literature? In other words, what are the socio-cultural, educational and other functions of literature?

1.2 Background To The Study

This research project is predicated upon the discovery that many students shy away from Literature in English, and their ignorance of the benefits derivable from the subject and its relationship with their lives has further led to other socio-cultural problems in the society.

A depressingly large number of those who study the subject approach it with a wrong opinion. They may simply be studying Literature in English in order to obtain a credit pass as one of their combinations for higher studies in other disciplines. In other words, Literature in English to them is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

This kind of view tend to make them think negatively of the subject as a sort of ordeal involving struggles with baffling texts, endless learning of quotations, attempts to predict questions and memorize answers. This mechanical study approach must be reversed and replaced with something satisfying and challenging.

This is where developing interest m the study of Literature becomes imperative.

1.3 Statement Of The Problems

The problems which this study seeks to investigate are as follows:

  1. The effect of the sociological background of the African Novel on the lives of the students.
  2. The cultural background of the African Novels and their relevance to the lives of the students.
  3. The thematic preoccupation of the African Novelists as derived from their unique experiences.
  4. The stylistic and artistic use of realistic African aesthetics and embellishment to capture the interest of the students.

1.4 Purpose Of The Study

This research project seek to investigate how the African Novels influence the learning of literature in English in our secondary schools, through an analysis of some of the works of four major African Prose writers; each from a different region of the continent, having a unique peculiarity.

The focus on Anglophone West African will be on Chinua Achebe, The Central African Novelist; Ferdinand Oyono will represent the Francophone African region; Ngugi Wa Thiongo will be looked at as a representative of the East African Zone and the works of Peter Abraham will be reviewed for the South African region.

Their writings (at least one per Novelist) will be analyzed with a view to show their sources of inspiration via the varied experience of the writers, but with similar thematic preoccupations.

1.5 Research Questions

The project will seek answers to the following questions:

  1. What effect does the sociological background in the African Novels have on the students.
  2. What is the relevance of the cultural backgrounds in the African Novel to the lives of the students.
  3. What are the similarities in the range of themes explored by African Novelists.
  4. How realistic and fascinating are the themes of the African Novel to the modern African situation.
  5. What style and artistry do these Novelists adopt to make their writings realistic and capture the interest of the students.

1.6 Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses will be tested for validity and reliability.

  1. There is no significant effect of the sociological background of the Novels on the students.
  2. There is no remarkable relevance of the cultural background of the African Novels to the lives of the students.
  3. There are no obvious similarities in the range of themes explored by African Novelists.
  4. There is no significant relationship between the themes of the African Novels and real situations in the African context.
  5. The styles and other artistic adoptions of the Novelists have no remarkable influence on the interest of students in studying literature in English.

1.7 Significance Of The Study

This study is significant in the sense that, it will diagnose the importance of the African Novels in the learning of Literature in English in secondary schools; how it’s continuous inclusion in the curriculum is of paramount importance because of its affinity with reality and relevance to life, and the probability of making it a compulsory subject not only for students in the arts but also in the sciences.

1.8 Scope Of The Study

The study will only cover the work (s) of four African Prose writers. And data collection will be restricted to the secondary schools in the Ikeja Local Government of Lagos State.

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