Document Type


Date of Award



African literature, Criticism and interpretation, African fiction (English), Folk literature, African

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Paul Edwards

Second Advisor

Mario A. Di Cesare

Third Advisor

John V. Hagopian




Criticism of West African fiction has been both recent and various. Moving from the socio—anthropological concerns, to the negritude orientation, to the argument for commitment, to the search for an African or Black aesthetic, these discussions have not considered in any detail the formal elements of the literature. For this reason, this dissertation focuses on the aesthetic aspects and examines critically the rhetoric of West African fiction from both the oral and written traditions.

After a critical survey of the contemporary approaches to African literature, stressing the merits and limitations of the various methods, this study analyzes several West African folktales. While not denying the didactic function of these folktales, this study concentrates on the aesthetic concerns of the story-tellers and the significant narrative techniques they employ in their art. Having discussed the outstanding techniques of the folktales, this investigation then considers a few of the early written pieces of documentary fiction, namely Onuora Nzekwu's Wand of Noble Wood and Timothy Aluko's One Man, One Wife. In examining these documentary novels, this study demonstrates the flaws of these works, flaws which seem to arise from the novelists’ ill-conceived attempts to educate a foreign audience. This dissertation next analyzes the efforts of Gabriel Okara, Chinua Achebe, and Amos Tutuola in their "Africanization" of English, a process of developing a style suitable to the presentation of their perceptions of a unique African experience. This work concludes with a detailed analysis of the narrative techniques used by Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart and Gabriel Okara in The Voice to demonstrate their contributions to the development of the rhetoric of West African fiction.