On the State of Amharic Literary Scholarship

ዋና ገጽ | የኢትዮጵያ ታሪክና ሥነጽሑፍ የምርምር ሥራዎች /Researches on Ethiopian History and Literature/
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On the State of Amharic Literary Scholarship

Yonas Admassu -Institute of Ethiopian Studies-


My aim in this brief essay is two-directional  first the essay is aimed at pointing out some misconceptions faulty assumptions and unwarranted sweeping  generalizations about Amharic literature that I particularly observed in those few works by expatriate scholars, who, to their credit, and as opposed to their Ethiopian counterparts have attempted a more or less  comprehensive study of the literature Obviously, this does not mean that Ethiopian scholars have not made any attempt in this respect. A cursory glance, for example, at the M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations as well as journal articles written by students and university professors is an indication of the growing interest in Amharic literary research. Virtually all of these studies,however,whether crude or refined, are what I would like to call 'specialized' studies, in the sense that they deal with such aspects of fiction as ‘characterization’,’setting’, ‘form',' style','points of view', etc. While such works contribute to our understanding of individual Fictional works and to the art of fiction writing in Amharic,they do not (neither are They meant to) answer the apparently simple but delicate and complex question: what do writers of fiction in Amharic write about?  The answer to which, in my opinion, would not simply be: 'love', 'marriage of unequals', 'abduction',' eloping', 'getting lost and found',' prostitution','patriotism',e tc., subjects that are not peculiar to Amharic literature al one, if such a question is meant to address the problematic of getting an insight into what we may call, in general terms,the 'nature o f narrative' in Amharic.

Having pointed out the misconceptions,assumptions and sweeping generalizations I have in mind,by way of negatively showing, at least, how not to talk or write about Amharic literature I, shall then proceed to my second aim: that of suggesting ways of conceiving of Amharic literature and indicating possible future directions literary scholarship in the language can take and, in some cases, should take. The essay does not attempt to develop any definitive 'program' for the study of Amharic literature but suggests what we may call 'possibilities of reading',taking as much care as one could to avoid the pitfalls of being prescriptive,one of the tendencies that the essay itself sets out to critique.

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Yonas Admassu -Institute of Ethiopian Studies-
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