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LITERATURE

CONCEPT OF LITERATURE
What is Literature?
i. In a broader aspect,
Literature can be defined as any written or spoken material.
ii. In a narrow sense,
Literature is a writing which expresses and communicates
thought, feelings and attitudes towards life.

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Refers to ethical and moral story which mostly involves animal
characters;
These stories considered as group, for example a story book
which is called Kalulu The Hare by Frank Worthington shows
different of stories of Hare and other animals.
Themes in fables are often directly stated.
o

iii. In Most often,


Literature refers to creative works in the form of FICTION,
(Poetry, Prose and Drama) i.e. It excludes non-fictional works
commonly regarded as part of literature.

Myth

Stories that believed to be sacred which mostly involve


supernatural characters, for example, the Sukuma tribal story of
ogre Shingwengwe
Or

iv. However, simply,


Literature is a work of art which uses words or language to
convey the intended information to an audience or a reader.
For instance, novel, poetry, drama, broadcast compositions
such as films and television programs are also included in
literature.
The author or writer uses the words artistically to create a story
which reflect social realities (political, social, economic and
cultural issues within the society) to the reader or audience.
TYPES OF LITERATURE
A.

A myth is a traditional story of anonymous origin.


Many myths are about the creation of earth; others are about
love, adventure, trickery, or revenge.
In many myths, human action is controlled or guided by gods,
goddesses, and other supernatural beings.
o

Legend

Stories which believed to be based on real people and events, and


also believed to have some historical basis and true and, mostly
involve heroic human character

In terms of MODE of presentation (forms of literature)

i. Oral literature (sometimes is called Orature)

Sayings

In its broad sense,

Words or statements which believed to be true and wise


Proverbs

The term literature may include ritual texts, curative chants,


epic poems, musical genres, folk tales, creation tales, songs,
myths, spells, legends, proverbs, riddles, tongue-twisters,
word games, recitations, life histories or historical narratives.

A well known phrases or sentences that give advice or say


something that is generally true, and sometimes have hidden
meaning

In Most simply,
Refers to any form of verbal art which is transmitted orally or
delivered by word of mouth.

ii. Written literature

Example of some oral literature;

Refers to any form of non-verbal art which is transmitted


through written materials such as books, documents, papers,
animal skin, papyrus, terracotta, board etc.

Folktale

B.

An anonymous traditional story passed down orally long before


being written down. Folktales include animal stories, trickster
stories, fairy tales, myths, legends, and tall tales.

Literature can either be Fiction or Non fiction

Elements of a folktale include folk beliefs, a past or faraway


setting, flat characters, and predictable endings
o

Fable

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In terms of REALITY

i. Fiction
A type of literature that describes imaginary people and
events, not real ones
Hence, fictional literature may include genre such as; drama,
prose and poetry. For example, a novel called Un Answered

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LITERATURE
Cries by portray story which is not real, however, it reflects
most of African societies which practise genital mutilation in
reality, and Sierra Leon, Temne tribe as an example.
ii.

Non Fiction

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Refers to the central or main idea in a story, for example,
poverty, role of women, conflict are some of the themes which
can be found in a particular work of literature.
iv.

Point of view

A type of literature that describes about real facts, people and


events,

Refers to the position of a narrator in telling a story within a


work of literature,

For example, a poem called We will call no Christmas


ceasefire by Kajubi portray real event which happened on
the eve of Christmas 1975, the MPLA of Angola announced
that it was not going to call a ceasefire for Christmas in the
struggle against UNITA and FNLA.

The relationship of the narrator to the story, most writing is


written from the first-person, third person objective, third-person
limited, or third - person omniscient point of view

A story is portrayed by a narrator who is also a character


within a story. For example, the use of I, we, mine,
our, me, us and ours

ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE
These simply refer to basic features which make literature;
generally refer to the things that make up a work of literature
and its component parts.

i. Character(s) (actor or actress in film)

a) Main Character; vital or important character to the


development of the story. A good example of main
character is Remi from a play called The Black Hermit by
Ngugi Wa Thiongo.

v.
Main or Minor Characters can be described as;

Setting

Refers to a place where an events or a story take place. Setting


is built by elements such as;
Place; Morogoro, School
Time; Night, Morning
Weather; Cold, winter
Historical period; past, present and
Cultural milieu; Urban, diverse, USA
iii.

Theme

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third - person omniscient narrative


A story is portrayed by a narrator who is not one of the
characters in the story but he or she expresses every action
done by the characters in the story as well as all their
feelings and thoughts. He knows everything about all
character. (All knowing)

c) Flat / Static character; a character who does not undergo


substantial change or growth, for example, Abessolo in
the play namely Three Suitors One Husband by O. Mbia

ii.

third-person limited

A story is portrayed by a narrator who is not one of the


characters in the story but he or she expresses about all
actions done by characters and she or he has a permission to
express feelings and thoughts of only one character in the
story

b) Minor Character; a character who serves to complement


major character in the story. A good example of minor
character is Stranger from a play namely This Time
Tomorrow by Ngugi Wa Thiongo

e) Round character; a well-developed character who


demonstrates varied and sometimes contradictory traits

third-person objective narrative

A story is portrayed by a narrator who is not one of the


characters in a story but he or she expresses only about all
actions done by the characters in the story and not their
feelings or thoughts.

Refers to a person or an object or an animal portrayed in a book,


play or film

d) Dynamic Character; a character who changes during the


course of a story

first-person narrative

vi.

Plot

It is an arrangement of events in a series of events (sequence)


from the beginning of a particular story up to the end.
Series of events can be in stages as follows;

The beginning

Starting of issues that led to the development of a conflict;


The plot begins with the exposition, or the introduction of the
characters, the setting, and the conflict.

The climax

The highest point of conflict;


The rising action adds complications to the conflict, leading to
the climax, or emotional high point.

Resolution

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Solving or ending of a conflict;
The climax gives way rapidly to its logical result in the falling
action, and finally to the resolution, or dnouement, in which
the final outcome is revealed.
For example, Monica and her fellow students waited for a town
bus to take them to their school (the Beginning). When the bus
came conductor refused to take her and her fellows (Rising
actions/complications). She tried to inter in the bus by force but
conductor punched her face. Other students saw and decided to
hit the conductor severely until the conductor lost his
consciousness (Climax). Students run away fast from the
incidents area and left the bus driver without a trace (Falling
actions). The bus driver took his conductor to the nearby hospital
for treatment (Resolution).
Voice
Refers to the distinctive use of language that helps the reader
understand the narrators personality
Sometimes voice is determined by the authors or narrators
word choices (Diction). In other cases, voice is determined by
tone, an authors attitude toward his or her subject matter or
audience, and mood, the emotional quality of a literary work.

Note: Literature is a work of art; however other works of arts are not
literature due to the following reasons;
i.

ii.

iii.

Literature primarily use language as its medium of composing a


story or expressing ideas in novels, drama and poetry, however,
material such as papers, papyrus, animal skins and other flat
surface possible to be written on, while other works of arts such
as; in drawing artist uses pencil, pens, ink, charcoal or pastels;
sculpturing artist uses clay, wax, bronze, carving knife, wood or
metal to make their arts.
Literature can be preserved through oral traditional and other
written material such as books, documents, papers, animal skin,
papyrus, terracotta, board etc. While other works of arts can be
stored in other form of storage, for example, painting cannot be
stored oral however; it can be stored in cabinet, store room,
shelf, photograph and other place suitable for storing them
safely.
Elements of literature is unique to other work of art, for
example, literature is made up with elements such as;
Characters, Themes, Setting, Plot and Point of view which are
different from other works of arts like, painting, sculpturing,
drawing, martial arts etc

iv.

Literature has mode of presentation which is different from


other works of arts, for example, it can be traditional presented
either by oral or written form, while art such as painting
presented by 2 dimension figures or 3 dimensions perspective
pictures.

v.

Literature use techniques which are different from other works


of arts to achieve its intended message, for example, it employs
techniques such as; language, structure, style, thematization,
characterization, flashback etc to achieve its message intended
to the readers or audiences, while, art such as oil painting use

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dab technique and sculpturing art employs the techniques of
carving, modelling, casting, gluing and welding, nailing or
wiring

IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE
Importance of Literature (in its positive sense) to the readers
or the audiences
A. It entertains an audience or a reader because it makes
people enjoy, relax and getting pleasure through various
literary devices such as; poetic devices, jokes, comedy and
some interesting stories.
B. It serves as guiding principles of life towards a reader or
an audience. A good example is a poem called Saluting
ujamaa by Kundi Faraja; it provides principles of
ujamaa especially those of cooperation, fraternity, self
reliance, communal ownership of major means of
production, equality etc
C. Literature serves as an enormous information base for the
reader and audience, for example, most of the novels,
plays, poetry and films relate stories of human life, their
activities and the places in which they live. Hence, they
preserve a lot of information. Thus, literature has always
served as an authentic source of information from all
around the world.
D. On the other hand, literature acts as socializing agent. For
instance, a good book can bring the readers or audience
together with their friends when they talk about their
common experience of being read the same book or
watching the same film or Television programs with a
literary basis.
E. It educates an audience or a reader towards positive aspect
of life; hence, through literature people are able to obtain
various knowledge, information and skills relating to
various aspects of life.
How literature educates the audiences or the readers?

i.

It develops or improves language skills to an audience or a


reader, for example, through reading, listening or watching
different kinds of literary works, besides an acquisition of vast
number of vocabularies, the readers or audience are be able to
acquire language skills such as; speaking, writing, listening and
reading and becoming competent in a particular language.

ii.

It promotes / encourages changes towards a reader or an


audience in various aspects of life such as; political, social,
economic and cultural life in terms of reformation, revolution
and the like.

iii.

It motivates / influences a reader or an audience in achieving


positive goals of society in general or individual basis.

iv.

It helps a reader or an audience to understand different facets of


life; therefore, it leads them to see the world (or their life) in
different ways. For example, through passing different literary
works (stories) the reader or the audience can understand
different people, places, knowledge, cultures, point of views and
general perspectives of life.

v.

It makes a reader or an audience to be a critical thinker in


analysing and solving different issues of daily life. For example,
through passing different literary works the readers or audience
would change and develop their thinking pattern and become
critical thinkers.

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vi.

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encouraged those cultural practices and influenced the
readers or audience; a good example is a novel called
Unanswered Cries by Osman Conteh, the characters
like Yaposeh and Makalay encourage the practice of
genital mutilation by saying its importance such as; it
reduces sexual appetite and it signifies that somebody is
a real woman after undergo genital mutilation.

It promotes a particular culture identity to a reader or an


audience. Through literature a particular cultural elements will
be portrayed and transmitted to different readers or audiences.

Note: These are positive importance of literature to (non-readers or


audiences) the composer and actors.
F.

It provides employment or job opportunities to the people within


their societies. For example, people may become employee or selfemployed as the authors, editors, singers, comedians, actors and
analysts of literary works.
G.

It enables people to obtain income through the selling of their


literary works to different people within the societies.

However, there is a negative sense of literature towards readers or


the audiences as follows;

i.

ii.

iii.

iv.

It promotes boredom to an audience or a reader from


the stories which against their perspectives of life. For
example, the romantic novel or film can annoy a reader
or an audience who are against romantic activities as a
public issue.
It misleads an audience or a reader from positive to
negative aspects of life. For instance, by reading or
watching literary work based on malpractices such as
prostitution, banditry and other crime activities could
affect the readers or the audiences in one way or another
after they have perceived those practices as good ones.
A good example is a novel called Unanswered Cries
by Osman Conteh, the characters like Yaposeh and
Makalay encourage the practice of genital mutilation by
saying its importance such as; it reduces sexual appetite
and it signifies that somebody is a real woman after
undergo genital mutilation.

It destructs language competence to most of the


audiences and the readers after have copied areas of
language competence such as grammatical errors and
wrong pronunciation of a particular language. For
instance, most of the poet violet rule of grammar
because they are allowed to do so through their poetic
licences in their composition of poems, therefore, they
have written poems with grammatical errors so as to suit
the sound patterns in the poem. A good example is
found in a poem namely Wishes of a hero by Isaac
Mruma, in first line a poet write, Were I a hammer,
to achieve musical effect (assonance) by inversing
subject and verb, and also he uses were and I
instead of was which make a perfect agreement with
I (I were a hammer (not correct) I was a hammer
(correct)).

It hinders changes to some angles of life, for example,


in the aspects of culture, some of the cultural practices
and traditions are based on rigidness and not meant to
be changed, and hence, some of the literary works

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v.

It promotes negative emotions such as anger, hatred,


sadness and other negative feelings to an audience or a
reader from the stories which arouse their emotion
faculties during their reading or watching literary works.
For example, in the play called This Time Tomorrow
by Ngugi Wa Thiongo the readers or audience may
hate their government through reflection of the Kenyan
government within a Play which has destroyed the
market area while the low class people of Kenya
depended on it for their small business and as their
homes.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
1.
Literature has many importances towards the societies,
social groups and individual. With reference from the two (2)
readings you have read. Discuss the validity of this statement.
2.
What are the effects of literary works to the society in
generally as well as individual? Support your answer with
regard of two (2) readings you have done.
3.
With reference from two (2) you have read; discuss the
function of literature in the societies.
4.
The role played by literature within a particular society,
group or individual is said to be positive. Justify the truth of
this statement by using two (2) readings you have done.

Answer for question no. 1


Literature is a work of art which used words or language to
convey the intended information to an audience or a reader. For
instance, novel, poetry, drama, broadcast compositions such as
films and television programs are also included in literature.
Literature is very important to society, group or an individual;
this can be shown from the points of discussion which validate
its importance towards a society, a group or an individual. The
following are the points which validate the importance of literary
works from the play namely Three Suitors One Husband
written by Oyono Mbia;
Literature entertains society, group or individual who passing
through a particular work of literature. For example, the trick of
stealing dowry played by Juliette towards her father is very
entertained the readers or audiences. She steals 300 francs from
her father, 200 francs paid by Mbia and 100 francs paid by Ndi
as her dowry and give to Oko, the person she loves so as to make
her way of getting marriage with him, hence, to do so she steals
300 francs so as to make her father fail to pay back100 francs of
Ndi after taking 200 francs from Mbia and also to fail to pay

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back 200 francs to plan to give 100 francs to Ndi and give her
daughter to Mbia as well as remaining with the rest for his own.
However, eventually Oko come with the stolen 300 francs and
paid as a dowry for Juliette and her father used the same money
to pay back to Mbia and Ndi without noticing and remains with
no money.
Together with that, it educates readers or audiences who get in
touch with a particular literary work. For example, through scene
that involves people of Mvouttessi and Sangatiti, the witch
doctor who wants to uncover theft of 300 francs in Atanganas
house, a reader can realize that, superstition is not a good
solution towards solving problem because Sangatiti fails to
uncover the real thief, Juliette.
Also, it helps society, group or individual in understanding
different facets of life. For example, through different people of
Mvouttessi and their different activities such as; farming which is
practised by Atanganas wife and Ndi; political issues which are
practised by Mbia and Mbaga; and social issues which are
portrayed much by Atangana who wants to force the marriage of
her daughter, Juliette, a reader could understand different life
facets found in any real society.

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Literature promotes changes towards a reader or an audience.
For example, through Wanjiro who go against her mother
decision of wanting her not to get married with Asinjo because
he is from another tribe, Wanjiro changes and make her own
decision about her marriage and life in general. Hence, this
promotes changes towards readers or audiences who undergo
similar experiences.
Generally, all points validate importance of literature in its
positive side with regard of two plays. However, there is negative
side of literature which also may a reader or an audience
experience, for example,
a reader or an audience may
experience; boredom, destruction of language competence,
hindrance of changes, misleading and promotion of negative
emotions. In relevance to Tanzania, currently many adolescence
shown negative side of literary work especially those found in
broadcasting composition such as dramatic film. Some are
misled and become destructive agent of their culture, especially
in wearing and clothes issues. In my opinion, any literary work
must be strictly observed and edited before it becomes to public
access.

Literature makes someone to become critical thinker. For


example, through reading different approach of solving daily
problems done by the people of Mvouttessi, a reader or an
audience could become a great critical thinker; through Juliettes
trick of stealing the money from her own father so as to save her
love and her future husband, Mbia and returned the same money
to the owner gives a reader or an audience to think on the issues
or problems facing him or her critically.
Apart from that, the following are the points which also validate
the importance of literary works to society, group or individual
from a play called This Time Tomorrow written by Ngugi Wa
Thiongo;
Literature serves as enormous information base of different
issues occurring within societies. For example, through people of
Uhuru Market, a reader or an audience may find different
information about Mau Mau movement in Kenya, 1950s, and
its aftermath; through Njangos explanation about her husband
participation in Mau Mau movement in the forest, a reader or
an audience could grasp enormous information about that
important movement in history of Kenya.
Development of language competence also can be achieved by
a reader or an audience after passing through different stories in a
literary work. For example, through story of the people of Uhuru
Market a reader may acquire many new vocabularies such as
Crescendo
It act as a guide to different issues of life, for example, by
reading the story of Uhuru Market people and their struggle
against government campaign of cleaning the city which lead to
the destruction of their homes and market place, a reader or an
audience could be guided in their process of claiming their rights
towards government or non institutions. In a play people of
Uhuru Market start with sending delegation and then followed
by demonstrations and meeting on their way of protecting their
homes to be destroyed by the government. However, treat them
unfair and eventually demolish their homes.

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