When analyzing any type of literature, poetic or prose, one must concern himself or herself with basic analyzing skills. To analyze a text, one must examine numerous different aspects:
- Diction: the words the author chooses to use. Why does the author use them? What importance do the words possess? Do the words possess only denotative meaning (dictionary meaning) or connotative meaning (interpreted, personal meaning)?
- Style: the way a writer writes. What words does the writer use (similar to diction)? How does the writer create sentences (syntax)? What is the writer's tone? How does the writer illustrate the important themes?
- Genre: the type of writing. Is the writing biographical? Is it historical fiction? (I am only naming a couple different genres.)
- Theme: the subject of the text. What is the author trying to say about the world? Is the statement political, religious, or societal?
- Rhetorical devices: poetic language or ways to convey a message without being direct (metaphors, framing techniques, voice). Does the author use any poetic device repeatedly? If so, to what purpose? What does the use of the poetic device do for the overall text?
As for analyzing African prose specifically, one would need to include a few more steps of analysis.
- What part of Africa is the text from? What part of Africa is the writer from? Why is setting important?
- What are the common problems the author may have witnessed that he or she is speaking on in his or her text? What is the conflict the author is speaking on? What is the impact the conflict has on the author, the characters, or the culture?
- What words are native to the writer's home, culture, and/or language? What are these words included, instead of offering the reader a translation?
- What does the author state openly? What does the author allude to? What could these insights say about the author or Africa?
One final aspect of analyzing African prose could examine how the trials or conflicts illustrated in the text fail to differ much from those of the reader's (if not African). Or, the focus of the writer could lie in wanting to teach non-African readers about his or her culture.
Essentially, the more one reads into the text, the fuller the analysis will be. One must be sure to complete a close reading of the text, A close reading requires the reader to contemplate all aspects of what is going on in the text: the language, the sentence structure, the theme/s, the tone, and the overall story as a whole.
These are the analytical skills that I teach my students to use when analyzing World Literature.