Myth, Archetypes and the Rise of Modern African Poetry
Catalogue Vol.26 No. 1 Myth, Archetypes and the Rise of Modern African Poetry



African oral traditions have been reputed to be sources of material and inspiration for most modern African poets. Some African literary critics have tried, also to draw parallels between the elements of African oral tradition and the literary symbols found in modern African poems. Surprisingly, only a few understand the psychopathological relationship between the modern poets' imagination and those of the creators of the oral traditional narratives. This paper, taking Carl Jung's and Maud Bodkin's archetypal theory in poetry, examines the correlation between poetic imagination and collective unconsciousness. The study is qualitative in approach and is aimed at portraying the link between African oral performances and their written/modern poems. It strives to situate the study of African mythological archetypes into Jung's theoretical perspective. It discovers that part of the reasons for some of the reoccurrences of certain archetypes in the mythopoetics of modern poets, across the cultures in Africa, is not merely because of borrowings and appropriations, but also because of a certain shared collective unconsciousness.

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In attempting to explore the influences of the African Oral tradition on the development of African poetry, it is necessary to be clear about what constitutes African oral tradition.

Oral traditions in Africa are the spoken cultural practices that are performed in Africa to educate, entertain, inform and inculcate good values and moral ethics in the people. These Oral performances include myths, legends, folklores, incantations, libations, songs and so on. They unarguably constitute an attempt in pre-literate and contemporary Africa to create forms in which, through aesthetic and pleasant arrangement of words personal and collective, experiences are preserved through this narrative culture.

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