The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in the Developing World: Elechi Amadi and Buchi Emecheta’s Occluded Vision

  • Jane Elizabeth Fisher


Vision in Munro’s narrative becomes objectifying or unreliable; vision in Kyrie both illuminates and delineates our limited understanding of the 1918 influenza pandemic; and Emecheta’s sense of women’s vision in The Slave Girl is also increasingly frustrated and limited. By writing The Slave Girl, she fills historical silences surrounding the representation of female African slaves while constructing her own identity as a Nigerian woman writer. One source of Emecheta’s authorial strength, the Nigerian oral tradition of storytelling, also underpins Elechi Amadi’s 1969 novel The Great Ponds. Both The Slave Girl and The Great Ponds represent the 1918 influenza pandemic in relation to indigenous aspects of African culture (kinship slavery, tribal warfare) rather than World War I. The Afro-centric focus of these narratives emphasizes the extent to which representations of the influenza pandemic destabilize subjectivity in culturally specific ways. Amadi’s novel questions not only the construction of masculinity and femininity but also the tribal belief in native religions. Similarly, Emecheta’s novel draws on the folk magic ogbaange or spirit child to stress the social “otherness” of female slaves.


Influenza Pandemic Male Character African Woman Female Character Oral Tradition 
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© Jane Elizabeth Fisher 2012

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  • Jane Elizabeth Fisher

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