In another class I am taking, we are discussing the basic conventions and restrictions of genre. While reading the article “To Understand the Novel in Nigeria” by Wendi Griswold, I could not help but question “Nigerian Literature” as a genre. Typically, we would not so easily group the entire spectrum of a country or culture’s literature as a genre, however Griswold makes a case that suggests otherwise. There have been a number of different theories about how to define genre. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Economics says that genre is “used interchangeably with ‘type,’ ‘kind,’ and ‘form'” suggesting that there are also a number of misconceptions about genre.

Wendi Griswold describes a number of conventions of the Nigerian novel that certainly fit the bill for genre. The biggest supporting evidence Griswold explores are the reoccurring themes throughout many works. For example, anxiety about reproduction, conflict between tradition/modernity and growing riffs between generations. Another interesting theme she brought up was anxiety about car accidents. What is unique about this point is that a car accident is more than just a theme, and could also be seen as a convention of storytelling itself. An event that commonly takes place may be considered as more of a technical aspect of content than just similar themes, strengthening the argument for Genre.

While Griswold discusses purely the Nigerian novel, and the history of the growth of Novel as a genre, her emphasis on theme (which I am guessing transcend just the novel within the Nigerian literary tradition) suggest that Nigerian literature as a whole might lend itself to the creation of a genre. However, I am very hesitant to suggest that a group of Literature whose main unifying quality is still simply Geography, could be considered a genre. It will be much easier to consider such a question as we get farther into the class but I could still not help but notice parallels between how Griswold discusses Nigerian literature and the conventions of genre.

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About kwhudkins

I am a Junior at American University studying Literature and Multi-Ethnic Studies.

4 responses »

  1. I very much agree with you on this point: as our discussion in class brought to light, it’s very hard to talk about the bounds of “a Nigerian novel” because of how location plays into its essence. For instance, is a book by an Australian who has lived most of her life in Nigeria “a nigerian novel?” I feel like those queries begin to break down the idea of a “nigerian” as a genre for fiction.

    I also find that a lot of the themes which Griswold cites as being central to Nigerian novels (generational conflicts, anxiety over reproduction, etc) are seen across the board in fiction, and are not specifically the domain of Nigerian novels.

    But couldn’t the same thing be said of the English novel? When we take English classes in High school, don’t we divide up works by their country of origin? I would argue that the classification of a novel as “Nigerian,” “African,” “English,” etc. is, in this globalized world (yeah, I had to go there), mostly a matter of convenience, rather than substance.

  2. […] Source: Nigerian Literature as Genre […]

  3. John Spurgeon says:

    Reblogged this on CAMPFIRE WRITERS NETWORK.

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