Graduate Course Description

350:595 - Space, Place, and African Literature

Course No:  350:595
Index #: 14720  
Distribution Requirement:  A5, B, C
Wednesday - 3:50 p.m.   
MU 207

Space, Place, and African Literature
Stéphane Robolin

This course offers an introduction to spatial theory as one lens (among others) for reading twentieth- and twenty-first-century African literatures.  It will feature foundational texts in geography and spatial theory and more recent analyses that account for race, gender, and colonialism.  We will also be taking up primary texts in African literatures from across the continent, with one subsection focused on South Africa.  Our work will involve thinking through these sets of readings in conjunction, with particular emphasis on how theoretical readings help us re-read the literature before us and, conversely, how literature invites us to re-think/revise some of the theory at hand. 

The course will begin by positioning colonial modernity as a fundamental crisis in social space and social power, and it then moves toward articulating the spatial dimensions of colonial and postcolonial African identities.  Much of the course will be organized around exploring how space, place, and race mutually constitute one another in African literatures.  Beyond considering how segregated spaces organize social and psychic life, we will explore questions relating to displacement, dislocation, alienation, the challenge of locating home, and the practice of place-making.  We will also attend to spatial dimensions of literary production, including the formal arrangement of words on the page and the geographical location of African writers.

Primary texts may include the following:

Yvette Christiansë’s Castaway, Fatou Diome’s The Belly of the Atlantic, Assia Djebar’s Women of Algiers in Their Apartments, Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood, Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Sea, Bessie Head’s A Question of Power, Dambudzo Marechera’s The House of Hunger, Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow, S.E.K. Mqhayi’s Don Jadu, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood, Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia, Sembène Ousmane’s Gods Bits of Wood,  Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place, and Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light.

Critical readings may include selections from the following:

Avilez’s Black Queer Freedom, Baderoon’s Regarding Muslims, Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, Hofmeyr’s Reading Dockside, Krishnan’s Writing Spatiality in West Africa, Lefebvre’s The Production of Space, Doreen Massey’s Space, Place, and Gender, Mbembe’s Necropolitics, McKittrick’s Demonic Grounds, Philip’s A Genealogy of Resistance, Quayson’s Oxford Street, Accra, Smith’s Uneven Development, Tuan’s Space and Place, and Williams’s The Country and the City.

Evaluations will be based on consistent participation in discussions, in-class presentations, a midterm paper, an annotated bibliography, and a final paper.