English and drama

The Literatures of Africa

Module code: Q3079
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Workshop, Seminar
Assessment modes: Dissertation

This module samples the literary and intellectual work of a range of African authors. Some writers endorse the concept of 'African identity' in their work and explore hard-hitting topics such as slavery, (post)colonial history and political corruption. Other authors question the idea of 'Africa' itself and challenge unified identities, while others bypass continental models and focus on more mundane but equally significant topics such as family life, gender identity, urbanisation and migration.

Current debates about African identity, postcolonialism, homosexuality, the 'Black Atlantic' and African cultural history will be studied alongside the primary texts, and emphasis will be placed upon the different political and cultural contexts of the material. We will look at the ways in which the selected authors construct a locale in their texts to explore geographical and cultural difference, as well as questions of sexual, economic and political power.

Topics include the following: 

  • nationalism and cultural identity
  • writing the body, sexual identities and gender subversion
  • African oral cultures and art forms 
  • cultural flows within African-defined spaces
  • the literary representations of migration, displacement and diaspora
  • the literature of post-Apartheid South Africa.

Canonical novels from Africa, such as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Yvonne Vera's Butterfly Burning will be studied alongside poems and novels by new African writers and black British writers. Taken together, the authors on this module will reveal the multiple, dynamic languages and styles of modern African writers.

Module learning outcomes

  • Understand the concepts raised by their special subjects.
  • Understand the impact of cultural and social processes on the production of literature and other media.
  • Be able to define a topic for research which is appropriate to the course.
  • Be able to organise complex material in an extended piece of written work.