|dc.description.abstract||This study examines the nature of writing and reading of Black African autobiography. Specifically, it analyzes the transformation of persons into narratives, the concept of self and non-self in shaping the story and the diversity of meaning in selected autobiographies. To do this the study uses purposive sampling of three autobiographies; Camara Laye's The African Child, Mugo Gatheru's Child of Two Worlds and Ezekiel Mphahlele's Down Second Avenue. These three texts form the core of this study although other autobiographies are used for comparison at various stages. Our theoretical framework combines the strategies of deconstruction and sociology of literature. Deconstruction allows us to interrogate the premises and assumptions that are taken as given by readers of autobiography, while the sociology of literature gives us the chance to link the process of creating the self with the underlying social context.
The present study argues that while life may sometimes render itself to linear development in the same way a work of art proceeds, there are unique circumstances that compel the literature African to write his life. There exists a favourable narrative tradition especially the oral autobiographical discourses among non-literate African communities that the educated African utilize to tell their stories. In addition colonialism, which took different systems in different African regions, is such a disruptive force that it compels the authors to record its consequences. However the study also reveals that there are internal influences as well. Reflective environments coupled with the human urge to immortalize oneself are important motivations to the three authors to tell their lives.
Another finding of this study is that while the African Autobiography is modeled on its Western counterpart, it differs from it in some key respects. The African autobiographer, for instance incorporates the individual and the communal within the largely African philosophical worldview of "I am because were are" rather than the Descartian "I think therefore I am". Again the binary differentiation of either/or is deconstructed into an inclusive concept of both/and in African autobiography. This same worldview inevitably shapes the treatment of such themes as gender and time in these autobiographies.
The study also reveals that self-recreation in the selected autobiographies depends on memory, incorporation of ritual and the degree to which an individual author manages the resources of fiction such as character, plot and scene. Finally the study finds that there exists an unwritten contract between the autobiographer and the reader. While it is not written, both parties seem to proceed -to write or to read-with the awareness of the other's expectation. And that the urge to read other people's stories is inherent in all of us as a way of sharing where the author gives himself on the page and the reader gives back through reading||en_US