The Roman Catholic Religion in Ireland and Cameroon: A Study of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Nkemngong Nkengasong’s God Was African
Keywords:Roman Catholic, religion, Ireland, Cameroon, colonised, postcolonial, autobiographical element
This paper explores how the Roman Catholic religion has influenced the writer in Ireland and Cameroon as projected in James Joyce’s 1916 novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Nkemngong Nkengasong’s 2014 novel God Was African. The aim is to demonstrate that although Joyce is European and his work traces the development of a potential artist in a colonised Ireland and Nkengasong is African and projects the experiences of a scholar in a postcolonial Cameroon, both converge in the exploration and critique of the doctrine and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church whose mission is universal. Using the concepts of biography, history and culture of the New Historicist literary theory, this paper demonstrates that the critique of the Catholic Church is a projection of what Joyce and Nkengasong experienced in real life and thus they use their protagonists as mouthpiece to appreciate and at the same time condemn those practices they consider repressive with the aim of reformation. In other words, the authors project not what is dominantly fictional but what they were a part of. This autobiographical element makes their works closer to life. Though both authors believe literature should replace religion, their vision is that of a belief in God’s existence, truth, sincerity and controlled individual freedom and for a society that upholds human dignity, mutual respect and morally upright conduct. The Roman Catholic Church has its flaws but its spiritual benefits are overwhelming as its doctrine is universal but operates within the realm of inculturation in respect of the positive values of the people’s culture. This paper is therefore significant in bridging the dichotomy between art and life as the writer is projected as both subject and creator and the fact that religious values have a significant impact in the life of the writer. Thus, one of the ways to approach literature is from the autobiographical and religious perspectives.
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