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African Literature as Political Philosophy

African Literature as Political Philosophy

Mary Stella Chika Okolo


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The politics of development in Africa have always been central concerns of the continent's literature. Yet ideas about the best way to achieve this development, and even what development itself should look like, have been hotly contested. African Literature as Political Philosophy looks in particular at Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah and Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, but situates these within the broader context of developments in African literature over the past half-century, discussing writers from Ayi Kwei Armah to Wole Soyinka. M.S.C. Okolo provides a thorough analysis of the authors' differing approaches and how these emerge from the literature. She shows the roots of Achebe's reformism and Ngugi's insistence on revolution and how these positions take shape in their work. Okolo argues that these authors have been profoundly affected by the political situation of Africa, but have also helped to create a new African political philosophy.
M.S.C. Okolo was educated at the University of Calabar, and then at the University of Ibadan where she received her Ph.D in Philosophy. She also has a PG.D in Public Relations. A Civitella Ranieri Fellow, she is the author of Winds on my Mind, Leaps of Faith and has contributed to many short stories and poetry anthologies. Her short story 'Those Days' won a Liberty Merchant Bank Prize. Her Ph.D thesis won the CODESRIA Doctoral Prize, 2005.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover\r Cover
Contents v
Acknowledgements vi
Abbreviations vii
Introduction: a neglected benefit 1
Outline of the book 3
Literature as philosophy: a theoretical framework 5
Philosophy 5
Literature 11
The affinity between philosophy and literature 13
Literature as political philosophy 22
Literary works as examples 28
Chinua Achebe and Ngugi wa Thiong’o as political thinkers 35
Chinua Achebe: a brief introduction 35
Ngugi wa Thiong’o: a brief introduction 36
Political thinkers 38
Achebe and Ngugi as political thinkers 53
Political concepts 60
Achebe’s reformist agenda in Anthillsof the Savannah 78
Plot 78
Reformist agenda: ‘no’ to the one-solution approach 82
New radicalism: a welcome panacea 87
‘Leader-centrism’: a thesis in self-conflict 92
Conclusion: merits against all odds 95
Ngugi’s Marxist aesthetics 98
Marxist aesthetics: a clarification 98
Ngugi: champion of Marxist aesthetics 101
Petals: a blend of vision and practice 102
Crystallizing an ideology 109
Cracks on the wall: weaknesses in the inner logic of Marxist ideology 113
Conclusion: not easily put out 117
Achebe and Ngugi on the African condition 123
Class analysis 123
Dependency in Africa’s underdevelopment 132
Leadership in social change 134
Which way for Africa? 136
Process 137
Institutions 139
Agency 141
Conclusion 144
Notes 145
Bibliography 147
Index 161