Lecturer: Meg Samuelson
Seminar Outline:
In this elective we will read four narratives by African women that present stories of female becoming or engage impediments to becoming. We will focus on how they present the process of coming to narrate or otherwise represent their gendered stories of self, as well as of others, while considering the relationship between the subject of feminism and the subject of nationalism from decolonization to the postcolony. Another central focus will be on the subversive energies of these texts, and the unbecoming – or inappropriate – subjects that they produce.

Primary texts:
Prescribed texts:
Bessie Head, Maru (Botswana, 1971)
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (Zimbabwe, 1988)
Chimamanda Ngozi, Purple Hibiscus (Nigeria, 2003)
Doreen Baingana, Tropical Fish (Uganda, 2006)


Lecturer: Christopher Ouma
Seminar Outline:
Childhood is a state in the progression of human life. It has been seen as a stage of development, in which some of the criticism provided by age studies has labelled variously as adultism, adulcentricism, or even adultocracy. Indeed it has been seen as mere tokenism to talk about childhood in terms of innocence and purity, as in the Romantic imagination. However, Africa in the recent imagination of the global world represents childhood as symptomatic, even synonymous to Africa’s states of war, poverty and disease. Indeed, childhood and in fact child figures are presented as victims constantly worked upon. In what ways can we talk about childhood beyond these polemics? In what ways can we talk about childhood as a set of critical ideas? Most importantly in what ways can we examine childhood as a category of discourse?  In Africa, the representations of childhood seem to foreground it as something that can be a category of identity, that indeed we can begin to talk about alongside gender, class, race and others.

In this course we will examine childhood as a potentially emerging category of identity. We will begin by examining early imaginative accounts of childhood like Camara Laye’s The African Child as well as Ferdinand Oyono’s Houseboy. These early works present the polemics and dialectics in the discourse of Africa and childhood – both of them set in colonial contexts. We will then fast forward to look at some contemporary representations of childhood in the context of war by reading Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah is not obliged as well as Chris Abani’s Song for Night. We will then examine more recent representations of childhood including Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. This is the tale of a fifteen year old girl living in a military dispensation in Nigeria but whose agency is foregounded as an alternative memory, time and perspective in the micro-politics of identity formation. We will complement this reading with the seminal text Fools and Other Stories which presents another dynamic of “ordinary” in light of a polarised apartheid dispensation – Njabulo’s stories engage with the “ordinary” as a ‘rediscovery” through figures of children. A theoretician we will engage with is Michel de Certeau, whose text The Practice of Everyday Life (vol 1) contextualises the ordinary as a critical perspective on identity formation. 

Primary Texts:
The African Child by Camara Laye
Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono
Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma
Song for Night by Chris Abani
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fools by Njabulo Ndebele.
Evaluation for this course will take the format of two sit-in tests (weighted at 25% each) and an essay (weighted at 50%).


Lecturer: Kelwyn Sole
Seminar Outline:
Through the study of four novels (all published between 1980 and 1997) this course will attempt to examine the Second Chimurenga, or War of Liberation, in Zimbabwe in the period from the late 1960s to 1980. Students will scrutinize the thematic concerns, socio-political preoccupations and analysis of this war as refracted through its fiction; and will look at the vastly differing novelistic structures and formal means through which the four novelists attempt to achieve their objectives.  Finally, we will discuss how the issues and problems that emerged in this war have influenced the course of Zimbabwe subsequently, up until this day.

Primary Texts:
A Harvest of Thorns – Shimmer Chinodya (Baobab or Heinemann pbk)
The Non-Believer’s Journey – Stanley Nyamfukudza (ZPH  or Heinemann pbk)
Bones –Chenjerai Hove (David Philip or Heinemann pbk)
Echoing Silences – Alexander Kanengoni (Baobab or Heinemann pbk)

The course will also examine some poetry of the period. To this end, handouts will be given to you in class.

(Please note that many of these novels are out of print; however, electronic versions are available in the library).



Lecturer: Harry Garuba
Seminar Outline:

In his often cited essay, “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Frederic Jameson says:

All third-world texts are necessarily, I want to argue, allegorical, and in a specific way: they are to be read as national allegories, even when, or perhaps I should say, particularly when their forms develop out of predominantly western machineries of representation such as the novel. (69)

In this seminar, we will explore some of the allegorical ways in which African literary texts have been read; ways that suggest – to use Jameson’s words again – that “the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the third-world culture or society” (69). This year, we focus specifically on the reflectionist paradigm in African literature and the arguments for and against reading literary texts as authentic reflections of an African reality or as national allegories or as allegories of class, gender, etc.  

Primary Texts:
Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman (Drama)
Christopher Okigbo, “Heavengate,” and “Distances” Labyrinths  (Poetry)
Mariama Ba, So Long a Letter (Prose)

1. Class assignments: one seminar presentation and a bibliography of no less than five references generated on each of the primary texts = 25%
2. One Bibliographic essay (see topic below) of no more than 1,500 words = 25%
3. Take-home examination long essay of 2,500 words  = 50%


Lecturer: Sandy Young
Seminar Outline:
This course offers an introduction to the fiction (and some non-fiction) of African American women, primarily. We will consider the ways in which their writing troubles and extends the literary canon in the twentieth century, from Zora Neale Hurston, writing towards the beginning of the century during the Harlem Renaissance, to Toni Morrison, writing near its close. We will reflect on the preoccupation with creating literary and generational lineages, evident in Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. We will consider the problem of race and the ways in which the novels complicate the idea of stable roots and racial identifications. In Corregidora, Gayl Jones will lure us into the haunting expressivity of jazz when language done ‘straight’ seems unable to represent traumatic experience. Toni Morrison’s Beloved will also take us beyond the expected and familiar into an experience of literature as mourning.

Prescribed texts:
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes were Watching God (1937)
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (1983)
Gayl Jones, Corregidora (1975)
Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

First essay of 1,500-2,000 words, due before mid-semester vac (40%)
Final essay of 2,000-2,500 words, due at last seminar meeting (50%)
Two class reading tests (5% each)


Lecturer: Daniella Cadiz-Bedini and Lucy Gasser
Seminar Outline
In this seminar we will consider a range of texts from the African continent and beyond. We will engage questions of memoir, exile and writing in and of the diaspora by moving across genres including short stories, novels, autobiography and literary non-fiction. Looking at the problematic and harrowing short stories of the Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera and the memoir by the Cuban Reinaldo Arenas, we will question the ways in which poverty and oppression come to shape individual experience and in turn, how this influences modes of writing. We will read Ivan Vladislavič’s portrait of Johannesburg in order to explore the poetics of space: what does it mean to write a place, especially one as troubled as the South African city? Jonny Steinberg’s investigation into the Liberian diaspora living in New York poses questions about the ‘literary’ in literary non-fiction as well as the ethics of telling other people’s stories. Assignments will consist of both critical academic essays and creative pieces inspired by the set texts, for instance writing a considered piece in the form of autobiography or investigative journalism. 

Attendance, participation and one class presentation: 20%
Two reflections (1500 words):  20% each
Final essay (2500): 40%
Prescribed texts:

Dambudzo Marechera, The House of Hunger (1978)
Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls (1992)
Ivan Vladislavič, Portrait with Keys (2006)
Jonny Steinberg, Little Liberia (2011)