INTRODUCTION TO LITERATURE-IN-ENGLISH
by Hassan Abdulbaqi
‘Literacy” refers to the ability to read and write. When we say “I have all the available literature on Comparative Religion”, it means you have pieces of writing or printed information on this particular field. Also, note that “Literature” is an uncountable noun, it cannot be pluralized, neither can it be used with the articles “a” and “an”.
This is not the Literature we want to discuss in Literature-in-English. Rather, we want to discuss the Literature which specifically refers to novels, plays and poems that are valued as works of arts. This is why the theory part of your WAEC and NECO shall be based on prescribed texts including novels, plays and poems.
This kind of Literature educates, informs and enlighten readers. People enjoy stories a lot and stories are usually the bases of the Literature we are discussing here. At the end of listening to or reading stories, they become educated, informed and enlightened. Amma Darko’s Faceless, educates us about issues regarding parenting, the street-child phenomenon, the African beliefs and many more. Frank Udoho Ogene’s Harvest of Corruption also informs us about the need to curb the government excesses and enlightens us about the adverse effects of bribery and corruption in the society. SO THAT YOU DON’T BECOME LIKE ME, for example, teaches readers the importance of using the dictionary and not relying solely on meanings that are gotten from second language speakers.
Literary works also records history and from it, we get to know, not only about our glorious past but also about the heroes of such pasts. We learn about the good and the bad about the past which paves the way for a beautiful future. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun, for instance, is a fiction that is set during the Biafran War which took place in Nigeria (1967-1970).
Information about the society you live in as well as that of others can be found in Literature. THE TRAVAILS OF THE TEACHER (1) gives us the picture of how teachers are treated in a country like Nigeria. The poem MY TEACHER: PRIDED BUT PITIABLE also mirrors the same ugly situation. Reading literary works also make us see the picture of what ensues in other societies and gives us the chance to compare and contrast situations in such societies with ours.
It also sharpens our Language skills. Most writers of Literatures (novelists, playwrights and poets) are often good with language usage, due to the fact that they are products of wide reading, sound education and continuous travelling. Published books, especially those that are not self-published, usually pass through a lot of editorial stages that usually result into an impressive work of little or no errors. Since we are what we read, our Language skills are sharpened in the process as we read these works. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, for example, contains many proverbial and idiomatic expressions which command respect for every reader who puts them to use while speaking or writing in appropriate situations. We also get to learn new words while reading these stories because they are being used in a practical life situations which is less tasking than studying a dictionary directly. This is why we have people who have not taken any classes in Creative Writing or Literary Studies but are so good with using words due to the fact they read novels, poems and plays.
This is a short introduction to Literature-in-English and the purposes while we study them. The common questions that is usually asked from this introduction are usually based on the purpose of studying Literature or what we gain from Literature. If you are asked to make an exception, choose the negative option but if based on inclusion, chose the only positive option. If you don’t understand this point, study this sample question:
We study Literature because of the following except………
- (a) Information (b) education (c)instigation (d) enlightenment
This is based on exception and (c) is the correct option because it is negative. See another example:
Literature does not seek to achieve the following except………
- (a) Instigation (b) terrorism (c) disobedience (d) education
This is an example of inclusion- that is what does the purpose of Literature include amidst all these? And the correct option is (d) because it is negative. Don’t forget that you won’t be asked questions relating to this in your essay as I explained in WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT IN YOUR SSCE LITERATURE-IN-ENGLISH PAPER
Subsequently, I’ll delve into common literary terms and give practical examples of books or personally write a story to illustrate each. If you liked this article, you can kindly share and also subscribe to get updates for more posts by sending your email address to email@example.com. You can also send your Whatsapp number to 08104431433 for Whatsapp updates.