African-American and African Literature
This week stories relating to both African-American and African Literature will be under review. The select stories are The Deep River by Bessie Head, Chike’s School Days by Chinua Achebe, and a poem by Leopold Sedar Senghor called Letter to a Poet. All three different types of writings have a few similarities, not only are they of the same genre of literature they all have the same theme of name importance. The theme idea of name importance is self-explanatory in the way that each of the literature works find common meaning in the importance of names and what names mean. After analyzing the three works we will then move forward to figuring out the best activities of incorporating this theme into a Secondary Education classroom for teaching.
First literature work is The Deep River. It took place around a tribe with the name of Talaote, a tribe whose name emerged and reemerged from that of other tribes, this name is the most important thing that remained the same. It’s a nice little story about Sebembele the son and heir of the Chief Monemapee (his father) and his father’s third wife Rankwana (who is not Sebembele’s mother, let’s not make this weird). Sebembele and Rankwana fell in love and had a child names Makobi. The whole tribe was not happy that these two were together and this caused a divide within the tribe. In the end if Sebembele were to remain leader and Chief as well as keep his wife and son then he was forced to leave the current tribe he was in. So, he did! Even after leaving the tribe Sebembele’s group of followers kept the tribal name of Talaote. The story says this: “And the name Talaote was all they were to retain of their identity as the people of the kingdom of Monemapee…The old men there keep on giving confused and contradictory accounts of their origins, but they say they lost their place of birth over a woman. They shake their heads and say that women have always caused a lot of trouble in the world. They say that the child of their chief was named, Talaote, to commemorate their expulsion from the kingdom of Monemapee.” This excerpt is from two different parts of the same paragraph in the story. The theme of name importance fits because the new tribe kept their name and the people in this new tribe nicknamed Makobi (the son of Sebembele and Rankwana) Talaote, after the name of the tribe, for a significant reason. He is partly why the tribe split up, but it was more to commemorate their roots and where they came from. This is important for them to remember.
After reading Chike’s School Days by Achebe, I really see the theme of name importance here because of the three names mentioned in this story and the similarity to the first mentioned story. The story in short is about a child who is more often called Chike whose parents (especially his father) wished to bring him up “in the ways of the white man” as they say. Chike’s other two names are John and Obiajuli, the final name meaning “the mind at last is at rest.” All these names are crucial to the theme as they all are descriptors of who this kid is. The last name is also important as it is for telling people that he would be one of two things: an only son or an only child. The names this child has, like all names, have an important meaning that tell a story. Even Chike’s father, Amos, has a tribal name Osu that was granted to him after marrying Chike’s mother Sarah in the name of Christianity. The importance of this name and why it fits the theme is because of the story and meaning it tells. Amos wasn’t even allowed normally to marry an Osu woman like Chike’s mother. It was just simply unheard of! The story gives great importance to name meanings and is rife with an understanding of the theme.
Last, but certainly not least, Senghor’s poem Letter to a Poet. I love poetry, so I figured this would be an interesting poem because it is a letter from one poet to another. In this poem, the importance of names theme is there as more of an identification. Senghor says to his friend Aime Cesaire (the word Aime in French meaning beloved) was to give his friend the name of beloved. To own that name as his own. In the end when Senghor says, ” In the sloping sun rises steaming from the rooftops And athletes, befitting your arrival, Parade their youthfulness, adorned like the beloved.” I feel as though the final word is a way to address and describe his friend. The theme applies to this mostly because of the term of endearment beloved is used as a description of a person that clearly holds high importance to the author of the poem. It’s absolutely a cute and sweet poem if you ask me. I really liked it!
After those three reviews it’s suggestion time! What is the best way to utilize this theme in the teachings of students in a Secondary Education classroom? It seems like teachers have a large issue in the classroom and with their lectures: they aren’t engaging or interesting enough for students. Why is this bad? Let me tell you simply, if students are engaged and interested in the lesson material they will learn better. Simple enough! Meadows (2016) a fellow teacher and writer of article 9 Tips for Engaging Your English Class with Pop Culture goes through and gives several ideas for teaching, things like this theme, in a manner that will improve student learning. One of the suggestions Meadows gives is to take things like song lyrics and music videos as academic texts. The suggestion here would be to find different modern lyrics and clips of music videos, give students and option to pick from them and have them do an analysis of the lyrics related to the theme at hand. Have them give examples of why the names as a theme is important. Have them break down how this name is important to both them as the analyzer and what they think the writer of the lyrics or creator of the music video was thinking when they wrote it. I would suggest having students read one of the three works of literature mentioned here, have students analyze one of these pieces and then do a simple bulletin point comparison of the lyrical writing they chose to the story. I am all for getting students pumped! If this is the way to do it, I am in. Where is the sign-up sheet?
© Donovan G. Ward
I am attending college online with Grand Canyon University (GCU) for an English Teaching degree for Secondary Education. The first question I was asked when I made the decision to embark on this journey to be a teacher was, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" My response: "It is not for the money." Regardless, I am looking forward to being a teacher and am on this blog as part of a college course. I have written (never published) books and poetry of all kinds and have a love for writing in general. I have never done a blog before so we will see how this goes. Let's do this!