The Impact Of Christianity On The Trickster Figure In Anglophone African Literature During The Period Of Decolonisation

Norton, Emma Lucy Victoria (2021). The Impact Of Christianity On The Trickster Figure In Anglophone African Literature During The Period Of Decolonisation. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores the ways in which the trickster figure of oral literature is represented in postcolonial Anglophone African written literature. While the function of the trickster in African oral culture has been much studied, the question of how the figure of the trickster has been inscribed in African novels and plays in English has been relatively neglected. The thesis addresses this lacuna in the existing scholarship by examining how trickster figures have been represented and narrated in six English-language texts from Britain’s former colonies in West, East and South Africa: Wole Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero (1960, Nigeria); Efua Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa (1975, Ghana); Peter Nazareth’s The General Is Up (1984, Uganda); Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo’s Matigari (1986, Kenya); Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness (2000, South Africa), and André Brink’s Praying Mantis (2005, South Africa). Identifying the 'source' trickster figures in the different African oral cultures for each selected text, the chapters provide carefully historicised close analyses of the literary texts, attending to the variety of social and narrative functions ascribed to trickster figures. One major element influencing how trickster figures from oral culture have been transmuted in African written texts has been Christianity. Missionary endeavours played a large role in the colonisation process and, by providing formal western education to prepare indigenous peoples to be subservient employees of the colonial machine, also enabled indigenous peoples to challenge colonial rule in its own terms. In several of the texts explored in this thesis, the trickster figure’s role is complicated by encounters with Christianity. Identified as subversive and morally ambiguous, the trickster figure provides a lens through which the conflicts and challenges of postcolonial nations can be viewed. The thesis concludes that close attention to the many literary re-workings of trickster figures provides both the functioning of dynamic and adaptable literary trope, and a unique insight into the concerns and anxieties of post-independence African nations.

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