The sociological relevance of Ethiopian literature in English: Relevance theory in focus

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Seoul : NuriMedia [Host]


This paper presents some arguments and methods for analyzing and interpreting the sociological relevance of Ethiopian literature in English giving more focus and importance to poetry. The method employed can support the analyses and interpretations of the views/voices within the writers in the faces of the ever changing Ethiopian society. In the Ethiopian tertiary education and scholarship contexts, educators, students and researchers might lack appropriate procedures for the interpretations of literary texts. In such contexts, intuitions are more trusted than scientific scholarship and procedures. This creates problem of miscommunication. This might also lead to rushed generalizations, misunderstandings and improper communications. In tertiary contexts, especially in classroom situations, absence of advanced methods of literary interpretation often places the teacher in an awkward confrontation with challenging postgraduate students. Relevance theoretic approaches can support educators, students and researchers to bridge this gap and help bring Ethiopian literature in English to the level of tertiary scholarship. Selecting three poems (one from each) of Tsegaye G., Eshetu C., and Asafa T., the researcher conducted text interpretations and classroom presentations. Within a period of two years (2010/2011—2011/2012), a total of 31 postgraduate students (MA in English) who registered for a course: “Stylistics for Language Teaching and Learning” were purposefully selected to interpret and present the major messages of these poems which they took as part of the course. In 2011, the class comprised of 19 MA students and all participated in 6 FGDs and in 2012, there were 12 students and all joined 4 FGDs. Each group presented the findings of FGDs to the entire class. All presentations were recorded and noted. The basic stream of the interpretations and presentations followed the theoretical underpinnings of Relevance Theory as proposed and promoted by Wilson and Sperber. The presentations and interpretations of these texts following RT showed that, amidst linguistic barriers, these poets have played not only sociological roles but also pedagogical roles in an ever changing Ethiopian society. It is found out that the three writers presented sociological issues from three different perspectives: African, Ethiopian and Oromo. Tsegaye presents sociological issues often shared by African Negritude writers which glorified pride in blackness and documents assimilations and alienations. Eshetu Chole presents burning sociological issues of all Ethiopians at the time. His political sociology focuses on the establishment of a visionary leadership in Ethiopian inclusive of Oromo People. This leadership should guide all Ethiopians from darkness and poverty to light and prosperity and finally to contested good governance. On the other hand, Asefa Dibaba is concerned with the freedom of Oromo. He believes that the Oromo are being insulted, humiliated, wretched and dehumanized. Then, he has suggested armed struggle to separate Oromo from Ethiopia. In this RT interpretive process, finally it can be concluded that a free statehood can be a true dream for the people of Oromo only through armed struggle.


Lecturer published article


relevance theory, strong and weak communication, implicature, intention, cognitive effects, relevance and Ethiopian literature in English


Woldemariam, H. Z. (2013). The Sociological relevance of Ethiopian literature in English: Relevance theory in focus. Asian Journal of African Studies, (34), 127-172.