Interface between gender myths and history in Margaret Ogola’s The River and the Source (1994) and Marjorie Macgoye’s Coming to Birth (1986)
Culture is central to the understanding of gender relations. Yet, studies have not examined how history (as myth or its product) influences our perception of gender relations. This paper investigates how myth, as a function of language, constructs history. It specifically explains how myth is used to construct and determine gender through a close reading and textual analysis of Margaret Ogola’s The River and the Source and Marjorie Macgoye’s Coming to Birth. The discussion is guided by Roland Barthes’ conceptualization of mythology and Judith Butler’s ideas on definition and cultural construction of gender and power, as well as authority in performance of gender. Findings showed that Ogola and Macgoye situate their fiction within the history and culture of the Luo people, who have traditional myths and legends that explain their existence. They invent characters and events that correspond to history, despite not being historical in themselves. The authors thus portray Africa as a rich combination of myth and history, their major characters embodying the essence of history, or battling it, or somehow relating with it through fantasy. In so doing, the authors engage in gender discourses, challenging patriarchy while highlighting the milestones achieved by women in time.
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