Spring 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

358:385 Literatures of Africa in English

01  MW7 7:30-8:50PM   LIV    08262   IBIRONKE    LSH-B105

Happiness in African and World Literatures

ON DECEMBER 2017, I went to Sierra Leone for the first time in my 24 years of life. Of course, I was met with pure glee by some, for the mere fact that I was connecting with the place my mother calls home. I was also met with confusion by others. Many mused on the safety of the continent and what it means to travel to an African country reeling from an epidemic and natural disaster. Yet, I knew Sierra Leone’s recent history was not their identity and that for all of the wahala or yagba (problems) in the country, there is still happiness.

--Aminatta Forna

Much of African literature focuses on the anguish of colonialism and neocolonialism and the tragedy of the postcolony. The main objective of this course is to study the search for happiness in African literature. We will explore works by Wole Soyinka, Aminatta Forna, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Nnedi Okorafor’s Sci-Fi. However, because happiness has been the subject of great quests throughout human history, and to frame our inquiry within the broader stream of that history, we will begin by examining the 2400-year-old Chinese Tao Te Ching - The Art of Happiness by Laozi. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen and The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner allow us to track how the idea of happiness has changed. We will examine the important role of happiness in constructing and determining social group ambitions and how collectivities produce specific ideas of happiness. We will explore interdisciplinary critical tools such as psychoanalysis and other theories fundamental for researching happiness in literature. Class assessment will be based on attendance, participation, multiple class presentations, biweekly short essays, midterm, and final papers.

Tentative Reading List:

Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka.

Happiness by Aminatta Forna

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Tao Te Ching - The Art of Happiness by Laozi

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search For the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor