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Fall 2017 Undergraduate English Courses

358:385 South African Literature

01  MW6  CAC  15112  ROBOLIN  MU-208

The story of South Africa has been marked by a number of political shifts—some notorious, others inspiring—that have regularly drawn the world’s attention: from violent colonial rule and a period of entrenched racial segregation (apartheid) to its more recent transition toward democratic rule.  Throughout its extreme historical conditions, its story has also inspired comparisons to America’s Jim Crow South and Soviet Russia.  This course offers a detailed survey of the ways that the story of South Africa has been told across the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Although this is a general (if intensive) overview, our movement across these texts will be loosely guided by an exploration into the problems with narrative.  Given the intense historical and political conditions of the country, how can and should authors tell the story of South Africa?  What factors interrupt a simple story in or about the country?  And what do simple linear stories obscure about South African lives?  What political, ideological, and aesthetic pressures shape the narratives of South African writers, alongside the terms of their characters’ lives?

Our primary texts may include: Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm, Plaatje’s Mhudi, Head’s Maru, Biko’s I Write What I Like, Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, Ndebele’s Fools and Other Stories, Gordimer’s July’s People, Mtwa/Mgeni/Simon’s Woza Albert!, Wicomb’s David’s Story, Duiker’s Thirteen Cents, Kozain’s Groundwork, Mda’s The Heart of Redness, and Christiansë’s Unconfessed.  In order to enrich our interpretations of these texts, we will also cover a number of concepts and frameworks from postcolonial studies.  We will therefore consider essays by a number of cultural and literary critics, including (potentially) Njabulo Ndebele, Achille Mbembe, Isabel Hofmeyr, Michael Chapman, Brenna Munro, Meg Samuelson, Zoë Wicomb, and Gabeba Baderoon amongst others.

This course will require regular attendance and intensive reading.  Evaluations will be based upon regular attendance and participation, short writing assignments/blog postings, one 6-7 page midterm essay, and an 8-10 page final research paper.