What is the polemical stance Elaine Fido emphasizes in her essay "Okigbo's Labyrinths and the Context of Igbo Attitudes to the Female Principle"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The polemical stance of Elaine Fido in her essay “Okigbo's Labyrinths and the Context of Igbo Attitudes to the Female Principle” might be characterized in a number of ways, including the following:

  • It is feminist in its concern about the presentation of women in literature.
  • It is cultural in its concern about the Igbo people in particular.
  • It is egalitarian in its concern about equality between the sexes, especially in Igbo culture.

All three of the preceding emphases are evident, for instance, in the following passage from Fido’s essay:

male Igbo writers are particularly concerned with the balance of male and female values in society and write about the results of inequities in male and female principles as being dangerous to social health. Igbo culture is favorable to the development of relative individualism . . . .

  • The polemical stance of the essay might also be described as anti-colonialist in its description of the negative effects of colonialism on the status of women in Igbo culture.
  • It is rooted in gender criticism, especially in its favorable comments about androgyny.
  • It is ethnic in its focus on the Igbo people and their history.
  • It is biographical in its focus on Okigbo as a specific individual.
  • As the foregoing comments have suggested, it is deliberately multi-faceted, and this quality is evident as well in passages such as the following, which describes Okigbo:

The creative artist who made the poetry was himself a collection of contradictory elements: poet and man of action who was killed in war; mystic with ambitions to be a financier; proud Igbo and yet lover of European poetry; a man ambivalent about négritude but extremely attracted to symbolism and committed to the rehabilitation of his race and culture after colonialism; and Christian trained yet an adherent of older religions.

  • Two more aspects of the polemical stance of the essay are suggested by the essay’s focus on “the spiritual quest which shapes Labyrinths.” This statement suggests a concern both with themes and with religion.
  • Finally, however, the primary polemical stance of the essay seems feminist, as its closing sentences about Okigbo suggest:

It remains true that his work is essentially religious and mystical, but it should be recognised that the centre of that mysticism is the poet's complex relation with a series of female deities and with his own maleness in that context.


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