Quest for Identity in Things Fall Apart

Topics: Chinua Achebe, Linguistics, Things Fall Apart Pages: 84 (31455 words) Published: September 26, 2011
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Language and Identity in Postcolonial African Literature: A Case Study of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

A Thesis Submitted to The Faculty of the School of Communication In Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts in English

By Abigail K. Guthrie 1 April 2011

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Liberty University School of Communication Master of Arts in English

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__________________ Dr. Jaeshil Kim, Thesis Chair Date

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__________________ Dr. Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, First Reader Date

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__________________ Dr. Paul Muller, Second Reader Date

Guthrie 3 Acknowledgements This thesis would not have been possible without the dedication, love, and support of Dr. Jaeshil Kim. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Dr. Paul Muller and Dr. Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, thank you for the countless hours you have dedicated to improving my life. You have taught me to love literature and you have encouraged me to pursue daunting tasks. Thank you for not giving up on a simple girl like me. You will never know just how much your teaching has shaped my life. Thank you to the faculty members at Liberty University who were not on my committee but who have had a profound influence on my life. Dr. Prior, Dr. Harris, and Dr. Woodard, you have challenged me and pushed me to develop my beliefs, my intellectual curiosity, and my taste for good literature. I hope one day I will make you proud. To my family and friends, thank you all for your love and support. Thank you for allowing me to continue my education. The late nights, the long hours, the breakdowns, and the tears of joy are behind me now because you were there for me. I am blessed to have you in my life. I love you. Finally, thank you Chinua Achebe. Without you, this thesis would still be a whimsical idea floating in the back of my mind. You have brought my ideas to life, and your words have inspired me. God bless you.

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“Until the lions produce their own historians, the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter.” Chinua Achebe, Home and Exile

Guthrie 5 Table of Contents Signatures………………………………………………………………………………………….2 Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………………..3 Epigraphs………………………………………………………………………………………….4 Introduction: Understanding Chinua Achebe and the Cultural, Literary, and Linguistic Transcendence of Things Fall Apart……………............................................................................6 Chapter 1: Understanding Africa: Confronting the Postcolonial Melee with an Interdisciplinary Approach…………………………………………………………………………………………13 Chapter 2: Ethnographic Literature: Professing a Language Attitude through a Literary Text………………………………………………………………………………………………29 Chapter 3: In Defense of Igbo: Achebe’s Language Attitude as Displayed within the Linguistic Structure of Things Fall Apart…………………………………………………………………...56 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………… 91 Appendices……………………………………………………………………………………… 94 Works Cited…………………………………………………………………………………….104

Guthrie 6 Introduction Understanding Chinua Achebe and the Cultural, Literary, and Linguistic Transcendence of Things Fall Apart Nigerian author Chinua Achebe once wrote that the time and place in which he was raised was “a strongly multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious, somewhat chaotic colonial situation” (Education 39). No better words could describe the Nigeria from the end of the 19th century to today’s 21st. Achebe was born on the 15th of November in the small town of Ogidi in Eastern Nigeria, one town amidst the thousand provinces that make up the land of the Igbospeaking tribes. The Igbo people pride themselves on autonomy; thus, the thousand towns that construct “Igboland” feel no need to meddle in the business of the other Igbos. Self-government, both pre and post colonization, remains both...

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Guthrie 105 Egudu, R. N. “Achebe and the Igbo Narrative Tradition.” Research in African Literatures 12.1 (1981): 43-54. Web. JSTOR. 5 March 2010. Finegan, Edward. Language: Its Structure and Use. 6th ed. Brazil: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. Print. Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams. An Introduction to Language. 8th ed. Brazil: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007. Print. Gates Jr., Henry Louis. “Canon-Formation, Literary History, and the Afro-American Tradition: From the Seen to the Told.” Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2000. 175-182. Print. Gere, Anne Ruggles and Eugene Smith. Attitudes, Language, and Change. Illinois: NCTE, 1979. Print. Gikandi, Simon. “Chinua Achebe and the Invention of African Culture.” Research in African Literature 32.3 (2001): 3-8. JSTOR. 5 March 2010. Grunebaum-Ralph, Heidi. “Re-Placing Pasts, Forgetting Presents: Narrative, Place, and Memory in the Time of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” Research in African Literatures 32.3 (2001): 198-212. Project Muse. 19 February 2011. Guillory, John. “The Canon as Cultural Capital.” Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2000. 218-223. Print. Jones, Eldred Durosimi. The Writing of Wole Soyinka. 3rd ed. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1988. Print. Kristiansen, Tore. Language Attitudes in a Danish Cinema. Sociolinguistics: A reader and Coursebook. New York: Palgrave, 1997. 291-305. Print.
Guthrie 106 Luhman, Reid. “Appalachian English Stereotypes: Language Attitudes in Kentucky.” Language in Society 19.3 (1990): 331-348. Web. JSTOR. 13 January 2011. McWhorter, John H. Defining Creole. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print. Mufwene, Salikoko. The Ecology of Language Evolution. New York: Cambridge UP, 2011. Print. ---. Language Evolution: Contact, Competition and Change. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2008. Print. Newman, Stanley. “Edward Sapir (1884-1939).” International Journal of American Linguistics 50.4 (1984): 355-7. Web. JSTOR. 20 March 2011. Nnoromele, Patrick C. “The Plight of a Hero in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.” College Literature 27.2 (2000): 146-56. JSTOR. Web. 25 February 2011. Obiechina, Emmanuel. “Structure and Significance in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.” English in Africa 2.2 (1975): 38-44. JSTOR. Web. 25 February 2011. Ohadike, Don C. “Igbo Culture and History.” Things Fall Apart. Ed. Abiola Irele. New York: Norton, 2009. 236-57. Print. Okafor, Clement Abiaziem. “Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe: Two Antipodal Portraits of Africa.” Journal of Black Studies 19.1 (1988): 17-28. JSTOR. Web. 25 February 2011. Pinker, Steven. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. London: Viking Penguin Group, 2007. Print. Povey, John. “Contemporary West African Writing in English.” Books Abroad 40.3 (1966): 253-260. JSTOR. Web. 5 March 2010.
Guthrie 107 Rabinowitz, Peter. “Actual Reader and Authorial Reader.” Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 258-267. Print. Ravenscroft, Arthur. Chinua Achebe. London: F. Mildner and Sons, 1969. Print. Rhoads, Diana Akers. “Culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.” African Studies Review 36.2 (1993): 61-72. JSTOR. Web. 25 February 2011. Shelton, Austin J. “The Offended Chi in Achebe’s Novels.” Transition 13 (1964): 36-7. Web. JSTOR. 25 February 2011. Schwarz, Daniel R. In Defense of Reading: Teaching Literature in the Twenty-First Century. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print. Snyder, Carey. “The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Ethnographic Readings: Narrative Complexity in Things Fall Apart.” College Literature 35.2 (2008): 154-74. Web. Academic Search Complete. 2 March 2011. Sullivan, Joanna. “The Question of a National Literature for Nigeria.” Research in African Literatures 32.3 (2001): 71-85. Project Muse. 19 February 2011. Tejumola, Olaniyan. “Chinua Achebe and an Archaeology of the Postcolonial African State.” Research in African Literatures 32.3 (2001): 22-29. Project Muse. 19 February 2011. Tompkins, Jane. “Masterpiece Theater: The Politics of Hawthorne’s Literary Reputation.” Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2000. 137-147. Print. Tucker, Martin. Africa in Modern Literature: A Survey of Contemporary Writing in English. New York: Frederick Ungar Pub., 1967. Print.
Guthrie 108 Wa Thiong’o, Ngugi. Decolonising the Mind. New Hampshire: Reed Publishing Inc., 1986. Print. Whorf, Benjamin Lee. “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” Sociolinguistics: A Reader and Coursebook. Ed. Nikolas Coupland and Adam Jaworski. 443-63. New York: Palgrave, 1997. Print. Williams, Adebayo. “The Autumn of the Literary Patriarch: Chinua Achebe and the Politics of Remembering.” Research in African Literatures 32.3 (2001): 8-21. Project Muse. 19 February 2011.
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