A Prescience of African Cultural Studies: The Future of by Handel Kashope Wright

By Handel Kashope Wright

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Extra info for A Prescience of African Cultural Studies: The Future of Literature in Africa Is Not What It Was (Counterpoints (New York, N.Y.), Vol. 40.)

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I want to go further than these critics’ concern with literary criticism to make the connection I believe ought to be made between African aesthetics and the teaching of literature in the African classroom. It is possible to draw on these earlier works to attempt to identify criteria which would enable one to begin to articulate a critical African aesthetics and to further try to illustrate how a critical African aesthetics could be employed in the reading of not only African works but non-African works as well.

Qxd 30 9/24/03 \ 4:57 PM Page 30 A Prescience of African Cultural Studies Abiola Irele (1990) has picked up the issue and pointed, if somewhat less dramatically and less colorfully than Soyinka, to a similar responsibility for the African literary critic: I would argue that [the commitment of African writers to pragmatic issues over aesthetic ones] enjoins upon the African critic an obligation to take account of the writers’ striving towards a meaning that reaches beyond the formal modes of signification discoverable within their works in order to engage a felt universe of life, a world involved more than ever in the tensions of a historical process whose outcome is of the greatest import for us as Africans.

The effects, therefore, of the marginalization not only of African works but also of African aesthetics, approaches, and non-literary forms in literature studies in Africa on students and on the viability of literature studies in Africa is not to be underestimated. Conversely, the existence and serious appreciation of African literature demands quite significant, even revolutionary, changes to literary criticism. such a reconsideration is the best thing that can happen in the field” (p. 217). Furthermore, Abiola Irele (1990) has observed that African works, especially traditional African works of orature, do not readily lend to Eurocentric historicizing in the tradition of literary history: In the restricted sense of a precise documentation of the growth and development of themes and features within the oral tradition, literary history is, in the circumstances, not always possible or easy...

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