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Daily Nation : February 8th 2014
24 | Weekend LITERARY DISCOURSE | Kenyan students don’t appreciate literary theory and criticism Are these Kenya’s finest literary critics? K Apart from Wole Soyinka, there are very few African literary theorists whose works can compare with those of the West BY JOSEPH WALUNYWA email@example.com enyan students of literature tend to value literature primarily in terms of the creative productions of the country’s writers, paying little consideration to the contributions of the country’s literary theorists and critics. In most cases, comments on the theoretical or critical productions of Kenyan scholars appear only as outcomes of debates among the country’s intellectuals, in which each is determined to prove their might in Kenyan literary theory and criticism. There are very few scholarly works that document the views of Kenya’s literary theorists and critics. It would appear that students of Kenyan literature have yet to internalise the truth that literary theory and criticism are as important, in so far as the growth of literature is concerned, as creative literature. It would appear that they have yet to see the point that the country’s theorists and critics deserve as much attention, support, and recognition as its creative writers. The problem seems to be an inability on their part to comprehend the complimentary role that the three branches of literature (creative writing, theory, and criticism) play in the development of a people’s literature. So, exactly who are Kenya’s most accomplished literary theorists and critics? What ideas do we associate them with? What are their ideological orientations? And how do those ideological perspectives manifest themselves in the theoretical or critical per- spectives that they bring to the discipline of literature? Finally, in what form have those ideas been packaged? Let us begin with a reflection on the complimentary relationship that brings together the three categories o literary scholars under discussion. To begin with, in so far as the responsibility of the creative writer is concerned, there is, really, no difference between him and scholars drawn from other disciplines in the humanities or social sciences. His most important pre-occupation is the determination on his part to raise the consciousness of the reader in regard to important aspects of human nature as manifested in the social context under examination at that particular moment of time. Essentially, the creative writer is like a doctor. Creative texts are comparable to the specimens medical practitioners use to diagnose the diseases that are ailing the entire body. By closely examining the circumstances that are represented in the text, the reader should be able to draw important conclusions about the issues that are of most concern to the prevailing social context. The differences between crea- tive writers and other scholars have to do more with the uniqueness inherent in the tools that they use to communicate their ideas to readers than with their overall scholarly responsibilities. In general, creative writers do not proceed by “telling” their readers what exactly they feel about the issues under consideration. Rather, they concentrate on “showing” them what those Prof Peter Amuka concerns are — through narration, description, and dialogue. To the extent that an author deviates from those rules, he works against the interests of creative writing. It is within this context that the responsibility of the critic will be appreciated most acutely. The critic’s responsibility is, essentially, to re-write the creative work in pedestrian language — the language of the essayist — for the common reader to apprehend. To understand the responsi- bility of the theorist, we must begin with a comment on “reality,” since the two are intimately connected. The theorist comes in primarily because of the complications that are inherent in “reality.” Reality does not exist in concrete terms. It is not an entity that one can point at and say, “That is reality.” Rather, reality is constructed, it is the perceptions from our socialization over the years. This implies that reality is not universal. It exists in multiple forms. Theory and criticism are intimately connected. Theory provides the interpretive categories that the critic requires THOGOTO TEACHERS TRAINING COLLEGE PRIVATE BAG, KIKUYU CELL: 0716113560, 0735357608, Website: thogotocollege.co.ke 62ND GRADUATION CEREMONY The Board of Management, Thogoto Teachers Training College invites you to the 62nd GRADUATION CEREMONY which will be held on Friday 28th February, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. The Guest of Honour will be Kiragu Wa Magochi; MBS, Ag. Education Secretary Ministry of Education Science and Technology. Both the ECDE Certificate/Diploma and the PTE Certificate graduands should pay a convocation fee of Kshs.500 (Five hundred shillings only) by 27th February,2014. Graduation gowns will be collected for rehearsals on Thursday 27th February 2014. A compulsory graduation rehearsal will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday 27th February 2014. Those with fee balances will be expected to have cleared before this date. Accommodation for the graduands will not be available. . NB: Registration for holiday Diploma and Certificate Courses in ECDE ongoing. Naomi Kimotho (Mrs) Senior Principal/Secretary BOM MERU COUNTY GOVERNMENT OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER MERU COUNTY ASSEMBLY PUBLIC NOTICE/CORRECTION PUBLIC PARTICIPATION/FINANCE BILL & WARD FUND BILL Reference is made to the advertisement appearing on page 25 of the Daily Nation on Thursday 06th January, 2014. Kindly take note that review meetings for the under listed Sub-Counties will be held in the venues indicated below and not as earlier communicated. All other details remain the same. DATE SUB-COUNTY VENUE 17-02-2014 Buuri 22-02-2014 Tigania East Timau Social Hall DC’s Office Muriri J.K. ARIITHI The Clerk to the County Assembly P.O. Box 3 - 60200 MERU. TIME 10 AM 10 AM Prof Chris Wanjala in order for him to articulate the perception that the creative writer brings to reality. For example, Marxist and materialist theory enables the critic to deal most effectively with class issues, feminist theory with gender and patriarchal issues, psychoanalytic theory with mental issues, and post-colonial theory with imperial(list) issues. It is clear, therefore, that lit- erature is by no means simply about creative writing. Therefore, we should pay equal consideration to these three branches of literature. The West has solved this prob- lem. In Western scholarship, theorists and critics like Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ferdinand de Saussure, Jacques Derrida, and Louis Althusser attract as much attention from students of literature as creative writers such as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Vladmir Nabokov. It is possible to argue that in so far as literary criticism is concerned Africa stands shoulder to shoulder with the West. The critical works of Chinua Achebe, SATURDAY NATION February 8, 2014 Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Walter Rodney, Eldred Durosimi Jones and Lewis Nkosi are as powerful as any others. The problem is that the same cannot be said about Africa’s literary theorists. The explanation seems to be the general absence of interest on the part of students of African literature in literary theories derived from within African culture. I believe Wole Soyinka is per- haps the only African who has produced theory that is comparable to the theories that are associated with the West. So who are Kenya’s most important literary theorists and critics? Prof Chris Wanjala of the University of Nairobi has written many books, participated in many conferences, and published many articles in academic journals and newspapers on Kenyan and East African literature. How come we do not have serious studies of his contributions to theory and criticism? Prof Emilia Ilieva of Egerton University has written a great deal on African writing, particularly on gender issues. Which scholar has evaluated her work in a book-length study? Prof Peter Amuka of Moi Uni- versity is one of the country’s most accomplished critics, essayists, and stylists. How come we do not have any serious work dedicated to his theoretical and critical views? Dr Walunywa teaches at Egerton University’s department of Literature, Languages, and Linguistics. He is also the editor of Egerton Journal.
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