A common denominator in the criticism of modern African literature would appear to be the recognition of the essentially historical orientation of the literature itself. This is in the sense that the vast majority of significant African writers are, in various ways and to varying degrees, preoccupied with a creative interrogation of the African experience, especially since the contact with the West. But critical discourse of African literature, if it is to acquire the identity of a rigorous discipline, must begin to address itself to the rather crucial relationship between the socio-historical determinants of the literature in question and the inner formal categories generated by those determinants. In other words, it is no longer sufficient to perceive and comment on Ngugi's commitment to a socialist reconstruction of modern Kenya in Petals of Blood or Achebe's concern with the morality of neo-colonial African politics in A Man of the People or even Armah's disturbingly stark depiction of contemporary Ghanaian reality in The Beautyful Ones. Germane as such observations may be, the revelations which they contain are becoming increasingly obvious as the world gets to know more about Africa. Consequently, critical discourse of modern African literature must delve deeper into the ontological configurations of the very literary works in order to decipher the truth value of the texts as systems of aesthetic signification of meanings that ultimately derive from history. This need becomes even more compelling in the realm of the African novel, for the novel in particular is generically amenable to historical conditioning.
Amuta, Chidi, History, society and heroism in the Nigerian War novel, Kunapipi, 6(3), 1984.