Spring 2014 Undergraduate English Courses: Literary Theory

353:390 Imagining Africa

01 MTH2 CAC  11350 ROBOLIN  SC-104

01- Imagining Africa
As V.Y. Mudimbe has observed, “Africa”—as a concept—was invented, produced by the European imagination in ways that continue to matter today.  This class will pose key questions about how Africa and its inhabitants are represented: Under what conditions (philosophical, political, and economic) have images of Africa taken place? What changes in Africa’s depictions have occurred in the last two centuries?  How do representations of Africa, past and present, affect our understanding of the continent today?  And can altered images alter political or economic conditions?

We will begin by examining the importance of imperial fictions that created in the Western imagination defining images of Africa and its inhabitants.  These imperial fictions continue to shape conceptions of Africa mainstream journalism and film.  Self-representation, however, will offer us an entry into the ways African writers, scholars, and cinematographers have actively contested the dominant perception of Africa in the West.  We will also explore the ways that Africans have defined the image of Africa to and for themselves.

At bottom, then, this course takes up the politics of representation.  Our tasks will be to study the relationship between representation and social meaning and to consider how that relationship plays out vis-à-vis Africa/ns.  This will require that we understand representation in conjunction with key issues of identity (racial, cultural, gendered identities) and global phenomena (imperialism, the Cold War, and neo-colonialism).  We will employ key terms and theoretical frameworks—including theories of representation and postcolonial theory—to assist us.  Our primary texts may include works by Joseph Conrad, H. Rider Haggard, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, Ousmane Sembene, Ama Ata Aidoo, Nuruddin Farah, Véronique Tadjo, and Abdourahman Waberi.

Evaluations will be based on active participation, a midterm essay, a final essay, and two exams.