Abstract

One of the most enduring projects in the criticism of African literature has been the attempt to define the exact relationship between the local product and the so-called 'universal' tradition. The early criticism was dominated by the Eurocentric tendency to assume a simple continuity between Western forms and artistic aims and those of African writing, a tendency echoed by many of the writers themselves. Christopher Okigbo, for example, claimed the right to 'belong, integrally'^ to European societies as well as his own. He argued that 'the time has come to question some of our prejudices, to ask ourselves ... whether there is such a thing as African literature'.^ This tendency exercised not only European but also African critics - for example, in the search for quasi-historical parallels such as those drawn by Emmanuel Obiechina between Africa and the mediaeval situation in which European vernacular literatures developed from the presumed universal originating Latin source.^ Chinua Achebe's early and decisive intervention in this dispute was crucial, and no one has stated the case against universals in post-colonial criticism with more forcefulness and accuracy since:

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