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ART AND REVIEW

Why literature must be encouraged

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CHINWEIZU, Onwuchekwa Jemie and Ihechukwu Madubuike in their book: Toward The Decolonization of African Literature (Vol 1), revealed that “our conception of literature is perhaps a little broader than is conventionally allowed.”

Continuing, the authors state thus: in our view, literature must include all the genres of publicly communicated written matter of a society. Thus, in addition to prose, fiction, poetry and drama, we consider essays, biographies, addresses and orations a vital part of literature.”

Chris Nwankwo in his presentation on: ‘The impact of Theatre on Nigerian Literature, insightfully noted that “literature is generally a piece of writing about man in his physical world, designed to appeal to the mind. By the study of a man… study culture, religion, language, history, artistic expressions and social institutions with a view to improving the quality of life and human excellence, his ability to respond to situations appropriately, effectively and rationally. To him, with increased consciousness, it is hoped that man will be able to assume higher responsibilities and thus fulfill his cosmic destiny.

Dr Nwankwo also informed that literature, whether it be prose, poetry or drama helps to decode human experiences embodied in the past artwork of society, as well as transferring past experiences from old to the new. Literature is the mind of man perpetually analyzing the progress of man in a social context and perpetually setting goals for men to pursue,” he added.

Writing on ‘Affective Domain of Learning’ in his book: Theory and Practice of Continuous Assessment, J.O, Okeke, informed that “an examination of educational literature reveals a chorus of voices speaking out for the extension of the scope of learning in various directions, among which the need for education of the emotions and for creativity stand out (Hilda Taba).

To him, the school curriculum has abundant resources for the education of emotions and of imaginative thinking. Literature, for example, by offering a distillation of human experiences, also offers significance comparable to that of life. (Hilda Taba).

Nwamuo, insightfully noted that “dramatic literature is a literary composition which tells a story usually of human conflict by means of dialogue and action performed by learners. It is studied to respect its drama as an art form which should be seen and heard rather than read. Such literature helps to appreciate the continuum in drama and be aware of the fact that there are many literary events that ought to be watched, heard and read in order to develop taste as well as for enjoyment.

The writer also, informed that literature that is dramatic helps to relish complications of situations and character, and the appreciation of the rising suspensive actions of dramas and their denount. Among other values, it fosters the growth of a people’s dramatic expression based on various community histories, myths, legends and folklores and a strong sense of social solidarity. The literature which is heard, acted out and used as a communication medium, seeks to express the real life concerns and involvement of a people and provides the opportunity for them to renew their faith in their sources of creativity, individuality, identity and therefore unity”.

Dr Nwamuo in the same presentation revealed that “in education, the value of literature that is acted out is that it affords the majority of learners the opportunity to bend the auditory with the visual content, for lasting comprehensions”.

In Benin conference 1983, E.N Obiechina, in his presentation in a topic: The Writer and His Commitment in Contemporary Nigeria informed that “the topic is not new. In fact, it is as old as creativity itself. Every creative artist, be he a writer, an oral story-teller, a singer, a painter, a carver or whatever, has some kind of commitment. There must be an overwhelming urge well up within him, pushing inexorably, irresistibly, into using his medium to communicate with other men.

To him, the writer deals with human experiences. He is a man who at a time of crumbling values and

traditions, takes it upon himself to promote reform, restoration or revolution. He is a man who cannot stand aside from the battle to pass so that he can write the history or provide the editorial footnote. He should be a man who, when the occasion demands it, makes personal sacrifices, and in extremity, pays with the most precious thing he has to sustain the integrity of his calling”.

He beautifully expressed that “to fulfill his mission, the Nigerian writer must love the people of Nigeria, he must believe that they are redeemable, that they deserve to be saved, that they deserve a future free of man-made tragedies and undue neuroses and avoidable sufferings and the harshness of material want attended by physical degradation. To play this role also, the Nigerian writer must be reformist and a crusader for social justice, for the rights of individuals, for the rationalization of life and for the dispelling of ignorance and superstition and all those forces upon which oppressors and exploiters have played over the centuries in their attempt to hold the people down”.

Professor Obiechina revealed that “at the risk of insisting on the obvious, be an intellectual, that is someone who is concerned with the problems of the country and who is deeply committed to helping to find answers for these problems. He should, for this purpose, be deeply learned man, not in the superstitious sense of accumulating degrees and diplomas to flaunt in the face of adoring contemporaries, but in purely pragmatic sense of acquiring knowledge for the understanding of and the solution of human problems”.

I will like to end it with Nwamuo’s presentation: Impact of Theatre on Nigerian Literature on his rich information he provided on purposes of teaching literature in Nigeria”, where he stated that informed one is to “create fresh insight and awareness into life in the society and life in general with the result that readers get more educated and enlightened on life issues and problems , to contribute to the literary and linguistic development of a people and the nation. Nigerian literature written in English and other Nigerian languages help to improve the language and communication skills, as well as the beauty of literary expression of the people.

Others included, improving the level of moral taste in the society. It does not merely reflect the various aspects of the society but re-enforces the social vision and participate fully in shaping the spiritual, moral, social and material development of a people; to encourage and propagate a people’s culture. The works of Nigerian writers help to demonstrate the cultural heritage of Nigeria as a nation; to help provide enough reading materials and entertainment for a people who required intellectual stimulation; to add to the volume of literature available in the area of Nigerian literature.

Some of the purposes of teaching literature in school are to help mould the character of a people since literature is the prime mover of human development and the very fulcrum of human thought and action; to serve as a record of the moves and experiences of a people’s moral climate and therefore disciples of truth; to provide the function of general education to the people and to encourage creativity, foster social cohesion, inculcate a sense of belonging and the need to cooperate with others, appreciate it as an art form”.

Learned scholars, Prof Chinweizu, Dr Onwuchekwa, and Dr Madubuike, former Minister of Education, Federal Republic of Nigeria in their book: Toward the Decolonization of Africa literature (VOL 1) insightfully noted that “department of the comparative literatures would have the responsibility of exposing students to a wider breath of literatures than those of other parts of the world – South America, China, Indian, North America, Russia, South Asian, e.t.c.as well as the literature of Europe and of course of Africa. Such exposure would give African students of literature the proper breath of the perspective from which to see through the parochialisms and ethno centrism of the Pseudo-Universalist literatures and criticism that reach them from the west. By being enabled to compare African literatures with the literatures of the world, they would be put in a position to acquire a proper respect for the African achievement in literature and Orature”.

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