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  • 2020MehellouPhD

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Fathers and sons: A psychoanalytical study of black identities in 20th century Nigerian and African-American novels

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2023
Number of pages205
Awarding Institution
Award date28/07/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis examines the development of Black identity during the first half of the twentiethcentury in relation to colonialism and racial oppression. The chapters focus on constructing Black identity through a comparative analysis of Nigerian and African-American novels published between 1900-1960s. To do so, I use psychoanalysis, mainly the Freudian frameworks, to examine how Black identity is approached, criticised, and embraced by the protagonists. Through analysing the generational shift—from father to son—in the selected novels, I argue that the changes in Black identity are influenced by the protagonists’
involvement with “the white man’s” culture. Moreover, through using the psychoanalytical approach, I examine individual representations of Blackness instead of the collective, which sheds light on marginalised forms of Black identity(ies) in relation to traditional/folk culture, gender, and nationalism. Therefore, in Chapter One, I analyse the continuity of cultural traditions from one generation to the next in Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952)
and Langston Hughes’s Not Without Laughter (1930) using Bowlby and Ainsworth’s Attachment Theory. Chapter Two examines the generational conflict that results from the new generation’s access to Christianity and education in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953). In this chapter, I utilise Freud’s Oedipus complex to study different—and conflicted—representations of Black masculinity in relation to Black identity. The third chapter provides an analysis of the link between Black
identity and national consciousness in Cyprian Ekwensi’s People of the City (1963) and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952). By focusing on the protagonists’ identity loss, I use Lacan’s Name-of-The-Father theory to examine father-figures’ role in guiding the protagonists towards constructing collective/national identity. While throughout this thesis I examine twentiethcentury Black identity(ies), in the Conclusion I address the question of Africa’s position in
relation to Blackness and Black identity debates in recent times. To do so, I provide an overview of early twenty-first century socio-cultural changes and its effect on the construction of contemporary Black identity and the cross-Atlantic unity between Africa and the Diaspora.