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PROSE
ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

PROSE

Although drama and narrative poetry can be classified as fiction, the term fiction (or prose- fiction) is frequently associated with novels and short stories. For this reason, Fiction may be defined as a narrative writing drawn from the imagination or fancy of the author. The following features are therefore, pertinent to fiction/the novel form:

  • Story\narrative.
  • Characterisation.
  • Point of view.
  • Plot.
  • Theme.
  • Setting.

 

PROSE GENRES

Prose as an genre of literature has the following sub-genres; they are:

1) ROMANCE: is a medieval literary form initially old French, dealing with deeds of chivalry or with historical or mythological events seen in the perspective of a medieval court. Examples are imaginative stories of idealized love exaggerated; a fantastic, romantic love story often involving knights, or soldiers fighting to rescue distressed ladies.

2) FICTION: is literature consisting of invented narrative conventionally accepted as true because it is useful to make the assumption fictional. Fiction is imaginative, and creative rather than realistic. Examples abound.

3) FABLE: is usually a fanciful, epigrammatic story illustrating a moral precept or ethical observation. Characters in fables are often animals gifted with speech and possessing human qualities. a typical example is Aesop’s Fables. Others are the African stories of the Tortoise and the Birds; the Spider and the Wasp, etc.

4) FOLKTALE: is an anonymous, traditional story, orally transmitted, but could nowadays be written down. It often starts with “Once upon a time ….

5) SHORT STORY: A work o f prose characterized by brevity and by strictly ordered economy of plot and characters. It contrasts with the novel which affords many characters and rich sequence of incidents. In short story, the two constant elements of fiction, character and plot are reduced to a minimum. Examples are Chinua Achebe’s stories Girls at War and Other Stories and Flora Nwapa’s Wives at War and Other Stories.

6) MYTH and LEGEND: Myth is an ancient traditional story of supernatural or fabulous beings giving expression to the early beliefs, aspirations and perceptions of a people and often serving to explain certain natural phenomena, the origins of a people, and their way of life. It serves as an instrument of their identification with their past, their present, and their future. Myth, above all, is an admixture of the real and the ideal, the actual and the imaginary –  a way a people relate with the divine and the transcendental. Myth is an indispensable ingredient of every culture and especially the West African culture. Examples of myth abound in all cultures: myth of the origin of life, death, and so on.

Like myth, legend is an ancient story; it may lack accurate historical truth or evidence but still continues to be popularly accepted in a particular culture as wholly true. In everyday parlance, a legend could also be a person who has a special place in public esteem because of his real or imagined personal qualities and achievements. Individuals like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo are considered legends in different parts of Nigeria.

7) NOVELLA/NOVELETTE: A novella or a novelette is a short novel or a long-short story. It could also be a story between the length of a novel and a short story: not less than forty thousand words,designed to be read at a single sitting for purposes of creating emotional effect. Examples are Hemimway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

8) ESSAYS, BELLE LETTRS, AND LITERARY CRITICISMS

These include critical monographs, collected works of individual authors, and omnibus volumes from acclaimed writers. They are a miscellany, a collection of essays of various types: fugitive prose, works of literary criticism, selections in the form of anthologies, pamphlets and tracts all contributing to writings of distinction in many forms of literature.

Important writers of the above sub-genres are Montaigne, the innovator who used the essay as a convenient form for communicating his personal philosophy; Sir, Francis Bacon, who in 1597 was the first to use the form in his celebrated ten essays on Death, Revenge, Atheism, and of Studies, etc. Other writers are Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Virginia Woolf, Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, Sterne, and Carlyle.

9) BIOGRAPHIES, AUTOBIOGRAPHIES, DIARIES, LETTERS

Through, autobiographies (accounts of individuals’ lives written by themselves), diaries and letters, the biographer picks the facts in his search for the truth about his subject (that is, the person whose life account is being written). It involves assembling, collating, emphasizing, and above all, interpreting the materials at his disposal.

Examples in this regard are Dr. Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, Boswell’s Johnson, and Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians – – a work that shocked as well as delighted critics and readers in 1918 by its wanton display of irreverent irony, witty detachment, and satiric attention to personal flaws.

In Nigeria, biographers have written on important personalities like Generals Ibrahim B. Babangida, Sani Abacha, and Jerry T. Useni, as well as others. All these are important literatures to be treasured.

10) TRAVELOGUE: Navigators in the early past wrote accounts of their travels and these aided other explorers, colonial administrators and historians. Such example are Mungo Park’s Travels in Interior Districts of Africa, 1795-7 (he discovered the River Niger and died) and Captain James Cook’s Voyages of Discovery (1773; 1777; 1784) – – an account of his voyage towards the South Pole and round the World.

It will however be difficult to stretch this write-up beyond this point before handling our latest genre: the novel.

11) NOVEL: The novel which is the last literary genre to evolve, owes its origin and development to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews; and Richardson’s Pamela (1740). As its name “novel” (new thing) suggests, the novel tradition introduces something new to literature and that is “verisimilitude of life, ” life-likeness or realism. It is a highly complex, imaginative work of art that employs, among others, the use of plot, character, setting language, time and space, culture contact and culture conflict.

The novel as a sub-genre of prose, has other sub-categories or types as follows: Historic novel, Picaresque, Epistolary, Problem, Psychological, Propaganda, Sentimental, Realistic, Gothic, Naturalistic, Family, Sociological, Political, and Romantic Novel. Others are: Novel of Ideas, Stream-of-consciousness Novel, etc. Each of these novels has it own characteristics and makes peculiar demands on the novelist.

There are, however, other regional categories like the English Novel, American Novel, African Novel, Nigeria Novel, Indian Novel, etc.

 

CONCLUSION

Prose as a genre of literature is the last genre to evolve. And by “prose” we mean all forms of careful literary expression which are not metrically versified like poetry. Even though prose is not poetry, we must admit that good prose has a rhythm, which is essentially a quality of style. When this happens we hear critics describe a particular prose passage as “poetic prose”, even though prose should basically be “prosaic”. Good prose is often referred to as a “language such as men do speak.”

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