Spring 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

358:385 South African Literature

01   MW6   CAC   19974   ROBOLIN   MU-208

This 300-level course offers an intensive study of South African literature.  Across several centuries, South African life and culture have been marked by some powerful political shifts—some invidious, others inspiring—that have regularly drawn the world’s attention: from violent colonial rule and a period of intensive racial segregation (apartheid) to its more recent transition toward the challenges of democratic rule.  As a result, the story of South Africa has been told and retold, and it has been cast in many different ways.

While this course will cover a range of time-periods, genres, aesthetics, and themes, our focus will primarily revolve around how the story of South Africa is told.  In other words, our movement across this course’s texts will be guided by an exploration of the challenges of representing the South African context.  Given the intense historical and political conditions of the country, how can and should authors depict the story of South Africa?  What factors interrupt a simple story in or about the country?  What creative responses have writers produced, given the conditions of writing?  Whose story is it?  Which stories get told, how, and why?  While elements of voice, authority/authorship, form, and perspective are classic literary terms, this course will explore those terms’ fundamental connected to political, social, and interpersonal power.  In short, we will trace these formal questions back to the “question of power,” to quote the title of one of Bessie Head’s novels.

This is a rigorous, reading-intensive course that requires regular attendance and preparation, and students are expected to maintain a high level of engagement with the course materials.  Evaluations will be based upon regular attendance and participation, quizzes, regular online posts, one 5-6 page midterm essay, and an 8-10 page final research paper.