Approaches To The African Novel Essays In Analysis Plan For Future Essay
Both the climate of opinion to which he felt he had to address himself and his own conclusions on the basis of his study of the language come out clearly in the preface to the early work by Koelle, It is hoped that the publication of these first specimens of a Kanuri literature will prove useful in more than one way.
Independently of the advantages it offers for a practical acquaintance with the language, it also introduces the reader, to some extent, into the inward world of Negro mind and Negro thoughts, and this is a circumstance of paramount importance, so long as there are any who either flatly negative the question, or, at least, consider it still open, ‘whether the Negroes are a genuine portion of mankind or not’.
Considered in such a point of view, these specimens may go a long way towards refuting the old-fashioned doctrine of an essential inequality of the Negroes with the rest of mankind, which now and then still shows itself not only in America but also in Europe (Chatelain 1894: 20.
Chatelain’s introduction gives an excellent summary of the publications and conclusions on African oral literature to that date).
There had been a few isolated efforts before then, notably Roger’s retelling of Wolof fables from Senegal (1828) and an increasing awareness of the written Arabic tradition.
But until the mid-century there was no available evidence to refute the popular European image of Africa as totally without literary pretensions. African linguistic studies were emerging as a specialist and scholarly field, and this in turn led to a fuller appreciation of the interest and subtleties of African languages.
By the end of the century, Chatelain could assert with confidence in his authoritative survey that many myths, characters, and incidents known elsewhere also occur in African narratives, and that African folklore is thus a ‘branch of one universal tree’.
For though there are far more collections of African oral art than is usually realized, they are of very uneven quality and their usefulness depends on a knowledge of the theoretical preconceptions of the collector.
The European study of oral literature in Africa begins about the middle of the last century.
Far more, too, has been published on this subject than is usually realized even by many of the students who have recently taken some interest in the subject.
But because much of the detailed research this century has been carried out by individuals working in isolation or, at best, by various schools of researchers out of touch with the work of other groups, the subject as a whole has made little progress over the last generation or so, whether in consolidating what is already known, in criticizing some of the earlier limiting preconceptions, or in publicizing the results to date.