Title page for ETD etd-08022006-130211

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Hadjitheodorou, Francisca
URN etd-08022006-130211
Document Title Women speak : the creative transformation of women in African literature
Degree MA (English)
Department English
Advisor Name Title
Prof Rosemary Gray Committee Chair
  • Nwapa Flora 1931 criticism and interpretation
  • Alkali Zaynab criticism and interpretation
  • women in literature
  • women authors African.
  • Emecheta Buchi criticism and interpretation
Date 2000-04-01
Availability unrestricted
This study seeks to focus on the total female experience of African women and the reappropriation of a more authentic portrayal of the identity of women in African literature. In this dissertation, a chapter is devoted to each of the female protagonists in the three novels selected for discussion which are One is Enough (1981) by Flora Nwapa, Second-class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta (1975) and The Stillborn (1988) by Zaynab Alkali. Each chapter is named after the woman whose transformation it explores and the chapters are organised in a chronological sequence, that is, in the order that the writers of the texts were first published as authors of African literature, rather than according to the publication date of the text under discussion.

The mode of treatment of the texts is dictated primarily by the womanist thrust and the central question of the way in which each of the female characters transcends the triple jeopardy of colour, class and gender to become a creative non-victim. The epithet 'creative transformation' in the title, therefore, describes the emergence of female characters in African writing who overturn the literary characterisation of the one-dimensional African woman who is a 'shadowy figure who hovers on the fringes of the plot, suckling infants, cooking' and 'plaiting' hair {Frank, 1987:14).

The theoretical approach adopted for this study is largely of an eclectic nature but every effort has been made to establish a strong sense of the authenticity and credibility of the African woman's experience. In other words, the three texts chosen have been treated as both essentially social realist and African feminist texts read from a womanist perspective. The term ‘womanist’ is particularly valuable in the context of this study. The definition of womanism used in this study is that forwarded by critics such as Chikwenye Ogunyemi (1985) who states that ‘womanism believes in the freedom and independence of women like feminism’ but that ‘unlike feminism’, womanism ‘wants meaningful union between women and men and will wait for men to change their sexist stance’.

The findings of this study show that the female protagonists achieve transformation not by reforming patriarchal systems, but by being creative and reappropriating their own identities within these often antagonistic systems. That is, the women achieve a measure of fulfillment and a strong sense of their own individuality within an imperfect context. Particularly in their individual responses to the experiences of marriage and motherhood in a traditional context and in their seeking an authentic identity, the characters in the novels studies create a framework that enables them to be the women they want to be and not the women society would like them to be: Amaka bears twins fathered by Izu, a Catholic priest; Adah – a mother of five – leaves a violent relationship to pursue a career as a writer and Li, after establishing an independent academic life, returns to her errant husband in the hope that they can rebuild their life together.

© 1999, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Hadjitheodorou, F 1999, Women speak : the creative transformation of women in African literature, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-08022006-130211/ >


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