Summer 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

358:338 Colonial Literature of Africa

01  TTH6   CAC   00364    IBIRONKE  LSH-B112


Colonial Literature of Africa

The colonial literature of Africa consists of literary, non-literary, and oral literature.

We begin with Lord Lugard's Dual Mandate and the whole idea of the dark continent. Through the concept of "contact zone" by Mary Louise Pratt, this course examines classical texts by colonial literary writers informed by European travels and explorations, namely, Graham Green's Heart of the Matter and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. We will juxtapose their texts with film adaptations such as Apocalypse Now. We will segue into the literature of the independence struggle and decolonization using Former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's speech, delivered in Africa, "Wind of Change." There, he famously announced the inauguration of decolonization: "The wind of change is blowing through this continentand whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact."

 What else was happening outside colonialist discourse? We will use a debate among African philosophers on the role of missionaries in colonialism to examine the missionary writings of Samuel Ajayi Crowder, Samuel Johnson, and Carl Reindorf within the context of the Mudimbe-Taiwo debate. Whereas V.Y. Mudimbe views missionary writings as part of the anthropological and colonial knowledge systems, Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, in his book, How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa, claims that missionary operations constituted an alternative modernity, which was subverted and aborted by colonialism. We will screen Colonial Misunderstanding by Jean-Marie Teno to highlight the complex history of colonial conquest, insurgency, and missionary work as a cultural brokerage.

Toyin Falola's Nationalism and African intellectuals will be a valuable guide to the emerging elite and nationalist writings of Kwame Nkrumah, the Zik of Africa, among others. We will also explore oral poetry and print culture in the colonial period with the example of Song of Lawino, & Song of Ocol by the Ugandan writer Okot p'Bitek; themes of Africanity, Pan-Africanism, and black American returnees or travels to Africa, Negritude writers, especially Aimé Césaire's Discourse on Colonialism, the Swahili literature, and the recently excavated, translated and digitized Ajami literature of West Africa by the Senegalese scholar, Falou Ngom.

We conclude with Chinua Achebe's challenge to the images of Africa in colonial literature in a series of essays, which includes "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Ironically, the radical Kenyan writer, Ngugi, disagrees with Achebe about Conrad's racist representation of Africa. We will track Achebe's simultaneous retraction of a previous claim that he began to write in response to Joyce Cary's Mister Johnson, which he had read as an undergrad. In this regard, he draws attention to forms of writing in Africa, to which we can also attribute the birth of modern African literature rather than merely a reaction to the colonial literature of Africa. In this section, we will study selections from African authors who also wrote about the disastrous settler history in Africa: Achebe and Ngugi; South African Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, Paradise by Zanzibar's 2022 Nobel Laurette, Abdulrazak Gurnah; also, Amos Tutuola, Daniel Fagunwa, and Wole Soyinka.