Myth in Africa

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CUP Archive, Nov 3, 1983 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 316 pages
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In Africa the past and the present live very much side by side. African thinkers and intellectuals see their people's culture as rooted in time-honoured oral traditions and many African writers today use symbols, images and motifs from these traditions in their works. In this innovative study Dr Okpewho explores what he considers the essence of these traditions - myth - and examines its place in African life, literature and thought. Focusing on a number of tales from a selection of African countries, he shows myth to be the basic imaginative resource from which the larger cultural values derive. An established novelist as well as critic, Dr Okpewho discusses the narrative traditions of Africa - of which he continues to be a part - with balanced sympathy and objectivity. In this work he not only reasserts the pride in African traditions but also gives students of myth a fresh look at an old problem.

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myth in Africa


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About the author (1983)

A novelist, poet, and oral literary scholar, Isidore Okpewho is currently a professor of African-American Studies and Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Born at Asaba in the Delta State of Nigeria, he was educated at St. Patrick's College, Asaba, and later at the University of Ibadan, where he earned a first class Honors B.A. degree. For six years after his graduation, he worked as an editor for Longman publishers, but he then opted for an academic career. After obtaining his Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Colorado in 1974, he joined the University of Ibadan, where he rose to the rank of full professor. As a scholar, Okpewho is well known for challenging and demolishing, through forceful arguments backed by textual and contextual evidence, several Eurocentric preconceptions about oral literature in Africa. His first book, Epic in Africa (1979), effectively ended the Eurocentric view that the epic does not exist in Africa. In his second book, Myth in Africa (1982), he offers incisive, aesthetically grounded, redefinitions of "myth" against the prevailing ritual-based definitions of the old European schools of anthropological inquiry. His radical redirections of perspective have culminated in his most recent book, African Oral Literature: Backgrounds, Character and Continuity (1992). Okpewho has also published a collection of poetry, Heritage of African Poetry, and a collection of essays, Oral Performance in Africa (1990). His creative output includes several poems published in Okike and other literary journals and three novels. His first novel, The Victims (1970), is a tragedy of domestic conflicts. His Second, The Last Duty (1976), set in the Nigerian civil war, won the African Arts Prize for Literature. His third novel, Tides, is his most recent publication.

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