Osundare's Intrigues of Tongues: Ways of Meaning in an African Bilingual Literary Corpus


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




Written modern African literature is a victim of nineteenth-century European socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic vandalism. A major consequence is a new politico-cultural matrix based on the images of atrocities unleashed by Europe, which continues to define African historicism into the twenty-first century. The use of European languages and apparent reluctance of a section of mainstream African writers to use African languages to produce African verbal artifacts are among the matrices that have emerged. These issues have become germane and central to the discursive endeavor in the epistemology of postcolonial African literature. The births of modernity, the style of its production, the purpose of its content, the language of its communication, and the identity of its canon have been argued timelessly. In all, the value of the arguments resides in widely communicating authentic African semiotics, along with the purpose, in relation to the primary society the literature is supposed to serve. Given these ramifications, this study revisits the issues of language, style, and meaning in African literature, expressed in English as Second Language, through the lens of Osundare’s writing. Osundare’s writing is generally acknowledged as coterminous with the contentious issues of language, style, and meaning in Anglophone modern African literature; for this reason, the study highlights and analyzes aspects of Osundare’s creative processes of meaning for his thematic project. Osundare’s stylistic deployment of African (Yoruba) ‘socio-semio-linguistic life’ frameworks (expressed on English as Second Language) evoked by material substance of language is most palpable in his deployment of metaphors, proverbs, word-making, graphology, and bilingual features of language contact as tropes of poetic meaning. Analyzing these components of Osundare’s writing is an attempt at characterizing his literary idiolect and its implications for the production and criticism of African literature