Becoming the third generation: negotiating modern selves in Nigerian Bildungsromane of the 21st century

Smit, Willem Jacobus (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2009-12)

Thesis (MA (English))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABTRACT: In recent years, original and exciting developments have been taking place in Nigerian literature. This new body of literature, collectively referred to as the ―third generation‖, has lately received international acclaim. In this emergent literature, the negotiation of a new, contemporary identity has become a central focus. At the same time, recent Nigerian literary texts are articulating responses to various developments in the Nigerian nation: Nigeria‘s current political and socio-economic situation, diverse forms of cultural hybridisation, as well as an increasing trans-national consciousness, to mention only a few. Three 21st-century novels – Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie‘s Purple Hibiscus (2004), Sefi Atta‘s Everything Good Will Come (2004) and Chris Abani‘s GraceLand (2005) – reveal how new avenues of identity-negotiation and formation are being explored in various contemporary Nigerian situations. This study tracks the ways in which the Bildungsroman, the novel of self-development, serves as a vehicle through which this new identity is articulated. Concurrently, this study also grapples with the ways in which the articulation and negotiation of this new identity reshapes the conventions of the classical Bildungsroman genre, thereby establishing a unique and contemporary Nigerian Bildungsroman for the 21st century. The identity that is being negotiated by the third generation is multi-layered and inclusive, as opposed to the exclusive and unitary identities which are observable in Nigerian novels of the previous two generations. Such inclusivity, as well as the hybrid environments in which this identity is being negotiated, results in a form of ―identity layering‖. Thus, the individual comes into being at the point of intersection, overlap and collision of various modes of self-making. Such ―layering‖ allows the individual, albeit not without challenge, to perform a self-styled identity, which does not necessarily conform to the dictates of society. At the same time, the identity is negotiated by means of an engagement, in the form of intertextual dialoguing, with Nigeria‘s preceding literary generations. The most prominent arenas in which this new identity is negotiated include silenced domestic spaces, religo-cultural traditions, constructs of gender and nation, as well as in multicultural and hybrid communities. The investigation conducted in this thesis will, consequently, also focus on such areas of Nigerian life, as they are portrayed in the focal texts. Various theories of literary analysis (some of which specifically focus on Nigeria), Bildungsroman theory, theories of allegory, (imaginative) nation formation, feminism, gender and performativity, as well as theories of cultural identity and cultural exchanges, will form the critical and theoretical framework within which this investigation will be executed. Chapter One explores how Purple Hibiscus‘s protagonist, Kambili Achike, negotiates her gender identity and voice in order to constitute herself as an independent, self-authoring individual. Chapter Two, which focuses on Everything Good Will Come, investigates the dialectic relationship between Enitan Taiwo‘s national and personal identity, which inevitably leads to her quest to reconceive her gender identity, since national identity, as she finds out, is always an engendered construct. In its analysis of GraceLand, Chapter Three turns to the difficulties that Elvis Oke faces when he attempts to negotiate an alternative masculine identity within a rigid patriarchal system and between the cracks of a fraudulent African modernity.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die afgelope paar jaar was daar opwindende, oorspronklike ontwikkelinge in Nigeriese literatuur. Hierdie nuwe literatuurkorpus, wat gesamentlik bekend staan as die ―derde generasie, het onlangs internasionale erkenning ontvang. In hierdie opkomende literatuur, kry die soeke na 'n nuwe, kontemporêre identiteit ‘n sentrale fokus. Terselfdertyd reageer onlangse Nigeriese literêre werke met verskeie ontwikkelinge in die Negeriese nasie: Nigerië se huidige politieke en sosio-ekonomiese situasie, diverse vorme van kultuurverbastering asook 'n toenemende trans-nasionale bewustheid, om maar ‘n paar te noem. Drie 21ste eeuse romans – Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie se Purple Hibiscus (2004), Sefi Atta se Everything Good Will Come (2004) en Chris Abani se GraceLand (2005) – onthul hoe nuwe kanale van identiteidsonderhandeling en –vorming in verskeie kontemporêre Nigeriese situasies ondersoek word. Hierdie studie ondersoek die maniere waarop die Bildungsroman, die roman van selfontwikkeling, as ‗n medium dien waardeur hierdie nuwe identiteit geartikuleer word. Terselfdertyd sal hierdie studie ook worstel met die maniere waarin die artikulasie en soeke na hierdie nuwe identiteit die konvensies van die klassieke Bildungsroman genre hervorm, en daardeur 'n unieke en kontemporêre Nigeriese Bildungsroman vir die 21ste eeu vestig. Die identiteit wat ontwikkel deur die derde generasie is veelvlakkig en inklusief en staan teenoor die eksklusiewe, eenvormige identiteite wat in Nigeriese romans van die vorige twee generasies opgemerk word. Hierdie inklusiwiteit, sowel as die hibriede omgewings waarin hierdie identeite ontwikkel word, lei tot die vorming van identiteitslae. Die individu kom dus tot stand by die kruising, oorvleueling en botsing van verskillende metodes van selfvorming. Hierdie vorming van lae laat die individu toe, alhoewel nie sonder uitdagings nie, om 'n selfgevormde identiteit te hê wat nie noodwndig aan die eise van die gemeenskap voldoen nie. Terselfdertyd word hierdie identiteit onderhandel deur ‗n skakeling met Nigerië se voorafgaande literêre generasies in die vorm van intertekstuele dialoog. Die mees prominente omgewings waar hierdie nuwe identiteit onderhandel word, sluit stilgemaakte huishoudelike spasies, religieus-kulturele tradisies, konstrukte van gender en nasie, sowel as multi-kulturele en hibriede gemeenskappe in. Die ondersoek wat in hierdie tesis uitgevoer sal word, sal daarom ook fokus op hierdie areas van Nigeriese lewe, soos deur die fokale tekste voorgestel. Verskeie teorieë van literêre analise (sommige wat spesifiek op Nigerië fokus), Bildungsromanteorie, teorieë van allegorie, (denkbeeldige) nasievorming, feminisme, gender en performatiwiteit, sowel as teorieë van kultuuridentiteit en -uitruiling, vorm die kritiese en teoretiese raamwerk waarbinne hierdie ondersoek uitgevoer sal word. Hoofstuk een ondersoek hoe Purple Hibiscus se protagonist, Kambili Achike, haar genderidentiteit onderhandel en uitdrukking gee om haarself as onafhanklike, self-skeppende individu te vorm. Hoofstuk twee, wat fokus op Everything Good Will Come, ondersoek die dialektiese verhouding tussen Enitan Taiwo se nasionale en persoonlike identiteit, wat onvermydelik lei tot die herbedenking van haar genderidentiteit, aangesien nasionale identiteit, soos sy uitvind, altyd 'n gekweekte konstruk is. In sy analise van GraceLand, draai Hoofstuk drie om die moeilikhede wat Elvis Oke in die gesig staar wanneer hy probeer om ‘n alternatiewe manlike identiteit te onderhandel in 'n rigiede patriargale sisteem tussen krake van 'n bedrieglike Afrika-moderniteit.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/2335
This item appears in the following collections: