The modernist era as one of the epochs in literature has been attributed to the West by many people. Also, it is perceived that features of long gone eras cannot be found in works of the 21st century. It is in this light that this research has attempted to situate African writers within the modernist foldto show that modernismis not restricted to the West using two texts: ChimamandaNgoziAdichie’sPurple Hibiscus (2003) and Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah (1987). The texts have also been selected to determine whether the literary tenets of an older generation can still find expression in works of contemporary literature. The work has investigated the features of modernist writings in the two novels and proved that though modernism is a literary tradition of the 20th century, writers of the 21st century still employ modernist techniques, both as regards to themes and to narrative techniques in their works. Furthermore, the research has shown that modernism and any other literary trend for that matter, is not an exclusive preserve of the West. This is why it is possible to deploy such techniques in African novels as Achebe and Adichie have done.
1.1 Background to the study
Literature is a fictional composition in language (words) which tells stories that mirror real life situations to advocate ideas and express emotions or feelings. Literature mirrors life and is a product of the society. It reflects the social, cultural, economic and other aspects of human endeavour. As a result of what it is, literature has been used over the years to express people’s experiences, beliefs and opinions.
Literature has evolved through many stages from the Golden Age of civilisation during the classical era to the present time. The first stage of literature which was the classical stage was a secular era made up of the period of Greekand RomanCivilisations. Literature flourished during this time as it was considered a way of life of the people with stringent rules guiding literary creativity. During the medieval stage, the establishment of a religious state led to a decline of western civilisation and creativity was greatly suppressed. Little was produced and even this little came in form of anonymous pieces that bore no authorship as authorship was frowned at as a way of seeking earthly glory. The end of the medieval period was the rebirth of learning known as the renaissance. This brought about the exploration of the classical knowledge since the medieval period had nothing to offer. The writings of this time were named Elizabethan writings.
The Restoration Age succeeded the Elizabethan Age which was characterised by neoclassicism where the works of the period were modelled after classical writers. The Restoration Age emanated in 1770 and lasted till 1848. The period was noted for literary style known as romanticism. The write-ups of this period were directed towards glorification of nature and effects of man’s action on nature. The writers of this period emphasised originality.
Around 1830, there was the Victorian Age which brought about realist style of writing. The period lasted till roughly 1900 and the writings of the period reflected social problems such destruction of man, unemployment, criminal activities and social stratification brought about by the industrial revolution. All the above discussed eras and styles run into one another with each era imbibing one or two features from other eras’ style of writing.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, globalisation and industrialisation coupled with the first and second world wars brought a new literary style into existence. This was a sharp breakaway or departure from the earlier trends such as classicism, medievalism, neoclassicism, romanticism and realism. This new style was called modernism. The era placed emphasis on newness hence the production of unique literature not just in content but especially in style. The world became a global village as a result of industrialisation, globalisation and the first and the second world wars. People began to question the future of humanity and wonder what was becoming of the world.
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