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Literature in these times of coronavirus

literature-in-these-times-of-coronavirus

By Chijioke Uwasomba

THESE are interesting and challenging times for humanity indeed! Humans, in spite of their braggadocio are extremely vulnerable. They are always play things in the hands of forces outside their control. They often times generate conditions and contradictions beyond their imagination and control.

The COVID-19 is no doubt a fall out of human conduct that has unleashed unintended consequences on the entire human race. The virus which Donald Trump in his boastful and gung-ho disposition described as the Chinese virus in its earlier arrival has become a transnational threat which has shaken the global order. The societal strain is deadly and deadening. It has depressed economic activity and increased fear and tension in the world.

Given the ferocity of COVID-19, it is clear that pathogens do not only cause havoc to individuals but also poison the entire human system and its organisational power. At a time like this, the foundational basis and influence of the state in Hegelian and Gramscian senses come to the fore as all forces look up to the state for a rescue putting a lie to the theology and ideology of laisser-faire. Every state in spite of its ideological colouration is doling out measures and especially those with financial implications to stabilize its polity for survival.

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Everything is all at ease and a discipline like literature is assaulted and affronted by the COVID-19 phenomenon. This is because literature is concerned with humankind and human life in all their manifestations. These include matters that impinge on human life, covering every aspect of experience and aspirations, politics and economics inclusive. No literary or artistic activity can properly take place in an atmosphere of fear, hunger, ill health and general dystopia in the land. But literature like any other artistic and aesthetic enterprise glories itself and survives on the twists and turns of ironies. The global atmosphere today is thoroughly fouled sending people including artists and critics into self social distancing but it must be noted that this situation ultimately has the capacity of engendering an overflow of feelings and emotions that will give vent to the flowering of creative literature in every material particular.

The global society had experienced plagues, influenzas and other catastrophes including internecine wars but worked assiduously to re-make the world. The current global health crisis challenges the capacity of the human mind and there is no doubt that the world will be better for it. Literature, given its ontological provenance will ultimately survive this pandemic and create plenteous poems, novels, dramas and other forms of aesthetic activities and displays out of the current challenges of today.

  • Uwasomba, a scholar and critic is of the Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

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