Undergraduate English Courses

358:460 Very Contemporary African Literature

01   MW5   CAC   19972   ROBOLIN   MU-115

Over the last 15 years, African authors have made inroads in international publishing. While earlier generations of writers attracted deeply committed readers, the most contemporary African literature has enjoyed a widening and enthusiastic reception. This new writing—penned by well-established icons of African letters as well as a new generation of authors—examines a whole range of issues, but it is particularly marked by a growing attention to what 21st-century globalization means for the African places and people (as distinct from 19th-century and 20th-century globalization), both on the continent and far beyond it. In light of the dynamic contemporary moment, African writers wrestle with fresh challenges tied to long-standing problems born of the colonial and immediate post-independence eras. In so doing, they are prompted to revisit the past in order to both rewrite old narratives and script news ones.

This seminar will examine 21st-century African literature in a variety of forms that reflect some its generic, formal, language, and geographic diversity. The works include novels, short stories, poetry, drama, and memoirs in both conventional and experimental forms. These are predominantly texts written in English, but we will take up several translated francophone and lusophone texts, as well, that focus on different areas of sub-Saharan Africa (and the world). They will take up a panoply of subjects and approaches, but we will largely concentrate on principle questions that revolve around memory and movement: First, how do contemporary Africa writers reckon with questions of the colonial and post-colonial past that bear so significantly on the our present twenty-first century moment? And second, how do writers reflect upon the meaning of migrations across wide swaths of space and time? How, if at all, does this movement shape the subject and circulation of the texts themselves? Answers will be found by working through the primary texts, but we will incorporate secondary literature (literary criticism and theory) as needed. Our primary texts will likely come from some of the following authors: Chris Abani, Chimamanda Adichie, José Eduardo Agualusa, Gabeba Baderoon, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Nadia Davids, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Njabulo Ndebele, Véronique Tadjo, Ivan Vladislavić, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Zoë Wicomb.

Evaluations will be based on strong attendance and participation, pop quizzes, blog posts, one mid-term and one final research essay.