From Utopia to Nightmare: National Disillusionment in the Contemporary Nigerian Novel

  • Author / Creator
    Ogundipe, Olumide P
  • This dissertation examines representations of post-independence disillusionment in five contemporary Nigerian novels: Waiting for an Angel (2003) by Helon Habila, Graceland (2004) by Chris Abani, Everything Good Will Come (2005) by Sefi Atta, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and City of Memories (2012) by Richard Ali. Collectively, these novels detail a massive atrophy whose main characteristics are leadership failures, political resistance, ethnic rivalries, and the misery of the common people during the years of military rule in Nigeria from 1966 to 1999. Waiting for an Angel and Graceland describe the protests of citizens and their oppression by their leaders as the daily productions of the postcolony. Everything Good Will Come articulates the place of gender in contemporary Nigeria, and shows a character whose experience is caught between tradition and modernity while her identity is subsumed within the patriarchal powers dominating her home and country. Half of a Yellow Sun analyzes the symbolism and implications of the Civil War of 1967-1970, and describes this conflagration as the manifestation of ethnic tensions in the country. City of Memories examines the zealous struggle to protect the Nigerian confederacy in spite of the cultural hostilities and blame game among the country’s diverse ethnocultural groups. My analyses of the primary texts address questions such as (i) how does the non-manifestation of the utopian agenda offered by the political and cultural elites prior to independence now symbolize a postcolonial condition? (ii) to what extent does the contemporary novel hold the indigenous leadership accountable for the daily experiences of Nigerians? and (iii) how do Nigerians in the novels interact with each other in relation to their country’s contested history and ethnocultural diversity? Each of these texts is a fictionalization of a series of traumatic events that has overtaken the country since independence and has repeatedly left it dancing on the brink of collapse. The conversations these five novels have with each other over the country’s dysfunctional sociopolitical space have not, in my estimation, been adequately investigated. This study thus opens up these dialogues, and draws attention to the exceptionally tragic realities explored in these texts. My project is urgent at a time when readers and critics are being introduced to a proliferation of conflicting assumptions and ideas that simultaneously invent and misrepresent the crystallization of a Nigerian national consciousness. Besides contributing to existing scholarship on Nigerian literature, this work offers a fresh perspective on the reading of the interaction between the country’s postcolonial condition and its literary productions.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • English
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Daphne Read, English and Film Studies
    • Garry Watson, English and Film Studies
    • Pius Adesanmi, Institute of African Studies, Carleton University
    • Stephen Slemon, English and Film Studies
    • Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika, Women’s and Gender Studies English and Film Studies