Symbolism in Uganda Poetry
This study aims to investigate the nature of symbolism as the main literary technique in the expression of thought in Ugandan Poetry. The study was warranted on the assertion that since the dawn of the humankind, symbolism has been used as one of the main devices in poetic expression. In Uganda, an East African country famous for its poetry, literary criticism has so far paid insufficient attention to the use of such an important device in Ugandan rime. This is despite T.S Eliot's observation that the only way a person could express emotion in the form of art is to find an objective correlative such as, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events, which shall be the formula of that particular emotion. The objectives were: to investigate the nature of artistic choice of symbolism in Ugandan poetry; to determine the changing trends in the use of symbolism of early and contemporary poetry of Uganda; to investigate the influence of the socio-political and , socio-cultural environment on the nature of symbolism used by Ugandan poets; to identify the role of symbolism as a subtle and effective technique in communicating thematic concerns in Ugandan poetry. Similarly, there were four varied but correlated hypotheses that informed the study. The first one presupposed that symbolism features dominantly in all works of Ugandan poets. Secondly, there are significant changing trends in the use of symbolism by early and contemporary Ugandan poets; symbols change with time and from one context to another. Moreover, a symbol is not universally applicable rather it is situational and it changes from context to context as its meaning may change with time. Thirdly, the sociopolitical and socio-cultural environment has a significant bearing on the nature of meaning of symbolism employed in Ugandan poetry. Fourthly, and finally symbolism plays a significant role in communicating the central concerns of Ugandan poets. The method of collecting data allowed an intra-community interaction and dialogue where the researcher administered appropriate instruments based on an empirical qualitative method. These were mainly interviews, written reports, opinionaires, direct observations and critical reading. It is believed that no one has the monopoly of knowledge; hence from the very onset of the study, the researcher undertook to collect views from students of poetry in A Level schools through group-focused interviews. Secondly and mainly, the researcher concentrated on an extensive analytical reading of the selected texts by Ugandan poets. While focusing on symbolism in Ugandan poetry, the study was limited to selected poetry ranging from 1962 - 2006. For the convenience of analysis, the period covered was divided into three cycles here referred to as generations. Proceeding from several well known theoretical conceptual tenets, which, work well together namely: sociological, psychoanalytical, stylistic, semantic, and reader-response, the researcher undertook to test whether the above hypotheses hold true .Semantic, sociological and stylistic approaches seemed to form the tightest integration as much as their combined force enabled the researcher to establish the link between an identified symbol and its meaning from the given social reality. It was assumed that a given object or an action represents "something bigger" than it self. The semantic analysis was very helpful because it revealed associative links between the identified symbols and its meaning but the way these links were established by the researcher, the concept was traced through stylistic analysis. Poets use various stylistic devices in order to express the links between the symbol and the reality it represents. The verification of the plausibility of the researcher's identification and interpretation of symbols was done through reader response in conducting field research to test these interpretations on 'live' readers. Stanley Fish and Hans-Robert Jauss' views that a reader brings certain assumptions to a text based on the interpretive strategies he or she has learned in a particular interpretive . community and that a reader's aesthetic experience is always bound by time and historical determinants, respectively, helped the researcher to establish the readers' frame of reference, based on their past experience of literature. Sociological theory was also helpful in field research, since its nature explains relationship between literature and society. Psychoanalytical theory was of use too; especially Jacques Lacan's concept of how a symbol functions as vent for the author's repressed feelings, allowed the researcher to formulate respondents' past experience of literature and what preconceived notions held. The results of the critical analysis of the texts form the core of this study, whereas the field data, primary responses from Literature students constitutes its integral part. The study established that the first generation presents main symbols that are prevalent in the subsequent generations; these symbols seem to put great emphasis on the African tradition on one hand and Western modernity on the other. Secondly, the study argues that second generation poets tend to preserve but considerably expand and enrich the meanings of the main symbols in their works stipulated by their growing poetic experiences and the changes in the society. Thirdly, the findings demonstrate that in the works of the third generation poets the meaning of certain symbols has been noticeably transformed and that these changes were predetermined mainly by the changing social reality of Uganda, heavily influenced by coup defacto of the 1970s and 1980s and subsequent warfare in the northern part of the country. Fourthly and finally, the symbols mainly refer to specific social, political and historical phenomena. Upon which the study concluded that symbolism is a prominent and powerful tool of communication used by Ugandan poets to express their views. The poets across generations employ attendant symbols to illustrate, clarify, enforce, decorate, brand as well as shape intended meaning in context, and finally express the deepest concerns of Ugandan community. In addition, this study identifies further directions of investigation in order to obtain a full and detailed picture of the usage of various types of symbols in Ugandan poetry to enable researchers in the longer perspective draw a conclusive poetic map of Uganda.