Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation examines how West African prose in English is informed and shaped by the underlying African world-view and its expression in the beliefs and practices of the ethnic group from which each writer originates. The world-view is of a cosmos controlled by multiple deities and spirits, a world in which the gods exist for man and in which power is not dichotomized as spiritual and physical, nor as good and evil. The study includes one autobiography and sixteen novels by eight writers from five ethnic backgrounds: Chinua Achebe (Igbo), Elechi Amadi (Ikwerre), Ayi Kwei Armah (Akan), Kofi Awoonor (Ewe), T. O. Eschewa (Igbo), Buchi Emecheta (Igbo), Flora Nwapa (Igbo), and Wole Soyinka (Yoruba).;Each of the texts studied is written in the mode of realism but is centred in one or more metaphysical concepts or elements extant in west Africa. Forest spirits figure in Soyinka's childhood memoir Ake and water spirits in Achebe's Anthills, Amadi's The Concubine, Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and Fragments, Awoonor's This Earth, My Brother ..., Nwapa's Efuru, and Soyinka's The Interpreters. The last-named, however, is focused on the Yoruba Pantheon, as is Soyinka's second novel, Season of Anomy. The Igbo chi and the belief in reincarnation are paramount in Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood. The Igbo custom of osu on which Emecheta's The Bride Price and Amadi's The Slave are centred also plays a role in Achebe's No Longer at Ease. Priests are the major figures in Achebe's Arrow of God and Echewa's The Land's Lord, as are traditional Akan healers in Armah's The Healers.;The significance of these spiritual concepts is explained through material drawn from studies by African and Western philosophers, theologians, anthropologists, literary critics, and art historians and critics, as well as from autobiographies of West African public figures and from news reports of current events. Moreover, other writings by the authors of the texts discussed clarify their understanding of the key spiritual concepts.;The literary works are interpreted and evaluated from the Afrocentric point-of-view arrived at by this exploration of many diverse texts.



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