Ngugi Wa Thiong'o et al. Questions for English 256 Intro. to Theory, Chapman University Fall 2012



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Of Interest:

Assigned: "On the Abolition of the English Department" (1995-2000).

"On the Abolition of the English Department"

1. On 1995-2000, Ngugi and his fellow academics argue straightforwardly that the English Department of the University of Nairobi, Kenya should be abolished. What statements best elucidate what the authors believe is wrong with the status quo at the university – i.e. with the way the English Department is educating its students and indeed with its very existence as a remnant of colonial power?

2. On 1995-2000, Ngugi and his fellow academics at the University of Nairobi don't simply discuss what's wrong with the status quo; they set forth their own positive vision of what the university ought to be doing by way of literary and cultural education. What remarks best explain Ngugi, Liyong and Owuor-Anyumba's conception of an institution of higher learning's mission? That is, how do they articulate their university's responsibilities towards its students, and, much more broadly, towards the people of Kenya and even the continent of Africa?

3. On 1995-2000, Ngugi and his fellow academics at the University of Nairobi may be suggesting bluntly that the English Department be replaced by a Department of African Literature and Languages, but they're not at all heaping scorn on European literature. So what role do they suggest that British literature, Russian novels, French poetry, African-American literature, Asian literatures, and the like ought to play in the new educational framework they promote? Moreover, what alteration do they suggest in the relative balance between the British texts and the continental European texts to be taught?

4. On 1995-2000, we know that Ngugi and the piece's other authors wrote as they did in the 1960s context of an African continent a good part of which was just emerging from European colonial domination. Clearly, they saw "self-understanding" as part of the value in literary and cultural study. Here in the United States, to what extent might students and professors inflect or adapt their anti-colonial framework to suit American higher education? Do you think the English department's curriculum at your own school adequately reflects and explores the complex historical, literary and cultural experience of the United States? Why or why not?

5. On 1995-2000, Ngugi and the text's other authors place a great deal of emphasis on the centrality of the oral tradition in Kenyan and indeed African literature more broadly. What new approach to the humanities would be encouraged by stressing such a tradition alongside so-called standard literary works from African and other cultures? In responding, see 1998 in particular.

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.