Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Lecture Outline: Lecture One: Background, Context Lecture Two: Structure of the Novel Lecture Three: Violence in the Family & the State Lecture Four: Defiance & Hope Topics

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Purple Hibiscus

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Lecture Outline:

Lecture One: Background, Context
Lecture Two: Structure of the Novel
Lecture Three: Violence in the Family & the State
Lecture Four: Defiance & Hope




Coming-of-age, rites of passage








Violence and Abuse


Indigenous cultures

Colonial/ ‘western’ cultures

Critical Reading:

Chennells, Anthony. “Inculturated Catholicism in Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus”, English Academy Review 26 (1), 2009, pp15-26.
Cooper, Brenda. “Resurgent Spirits, Catholic Echoes of Igbo & Petals of Purple: The Syncretised World of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus”, African Literature Today 27, 2009, pp.1-12.
Genette, Gérard. 1980 [1972]. Narrative Discourse. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Oxford: Blackwell.
Nnolim, Charles. “African Literature in the 21st Century: Challenges for Writers and Critics”, African Literature Today, 25, 2006, pp.25-34.
Okuyade, Ogaga. “Changing Borders and Creating Voices: Silence as Character in Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus”, The Journal of Pan African Studies, 2 (9), 2009, pp.245-259.
Ouma, C.E.W. “Childhoods(s) in Purple Hibiscus”, English Academy Review 26 (2), 2009, pp.48-59.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Earnest N. Emenyonu’s editorial article “The African Novel in the 21st Century: Sustaining the Gains of the 20th Century”, African Literature Today 27 (2009), pp. X-XII.

1.1.Why or how has the Nobel Prize “conferred on the African novel, and African writing in general, a legitimacy, relevance and authenticity”? Is it ironic that this distinctly ‘western’ accolade (the Nobel Prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy, an elite cultural institution founded in Stockholm in 1786 by King Gustav III to further the Swedish language) should have, according to Emenyonu, such bearing on the status of African literature?

1.2.Explain what is meant by “African dynamics in the art of the novel” or “new motifs, new symbolisms and new techniques” in relation to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and the twentieth century African novel in general.
1.3.Critically assess the following statement:

“The African novelist emerged as a true voice of Africa and Africans, and, as the conscience and sensitivity of the society, boldly challenged untenable myths and stereotypes of Africa and Africans in the wider world”.

1.4.Considering Emenyonu’s celebration of the innovations of the African novel in the twentieth century, can Purple Hibiscus be seen as the literary off-spring of such texts? Note the elements of Purple Hibiscus which link it to such a literary lineage.

  1. Silence & Laughter

2.1. Gather as many references to silence and laughter in the novel as you can. For example, our first encounter with Aunty Ifeoma is through the sound of her laughter:

“Her laughter floated upstairs into the living room, where I sat reading, I had not heard it in two years, but I would know that cackling, hearty sound anywhere” (71)

  • Identify the different types of silence referred to in the novel.

  • What patterns can you discern in these references?

  • Examine the contrast between silence and laughter – how effective is this device?

    1. What is the deeper thematic significance of Kambili’s silence?

    1. Consider how silence is deployed by dominant groups to maintain hegemony over subservient groups. Read the conclusion of Wole Soyinka’s article “The Deceptive Silence of Stolen Voices” (Spectrum, 2003) below and comment on the political significance of silence.

There is more than one kind of amputee disgorged on the nation today, pretending to a civic wholeness, and that is one reason, among a hundred others why a National Conference of this nation must take place, and without any further subterfuge. We must take back our voices. Don’t look for the sign of the amputee within the flapping sleeve! Peer down the throat of that citizen and there you will find the real evidence of amputation – the severance of the citizen’s vocal chords!
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