ENGLISH 389 - Literature in African History
Fall 2020, Section 011
Instruction Mode: Section 011 is   Hybrid (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


This course is about the history of African literature. But our focus will not be on literature in itself. We will study how African writers, in their creative work, participated in the political and moral arguments of their time. In epic dramas, in novels, in poetry and in autobiographies, African composers conjured up audiences, fired them with a shared vision of the past and the future, and set them on a forward path together. By studying the social and political work that African writers did, this course explores the intersection of literature and history, and of imagination and politics. We will begin by studying the epic literature of southern and western Africa. The focus is on two epic heroes—-Sundiata and Shaka—-whose biographies have been configured and remade by griots, poets, and politicians. In the second part of the course we'll study the history of literacy in colonial Africa, focusing on the work that Christian missionaries and African converts did to standardize vernacular languages and create new literary genres. The third part of the course studies the nationalist literature that Africans produced in the 1950s and 1960s. In novels and in theatre, Africa's creative writers conjured up inspirational stories from the past; and in so doing they invited their readers to imagine themselves as constituents of a nation. Finally, in the fourth part of the course we'll explore a few of Africa's local literary traditions. In Yorubaland (Nigeria), in urban South Africa, and in central Kenya, contemporary African writers draw from longer intellectual traditions in vernacular-language writing. In studying this literary habitus we'll also be investigating the local roots for world literature.

Course Requirements:

Attendance is mandatory; participation and informal writing accounts for 15% of the final grade. The final grade is also determined by a take-home midterm Exam, an in-class Final Exam, and a Final Paper. The "reaction papers" submitted weekly are typically 2-3 pages and ask to students to respond to particular texts and questions. The final paper is usually 15-20 pages and the "type" of writing is more synthetic and less of the "research" model. The midterm is a take-home exam requires quite a bit of writing.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for sophomores, juniors and seniors who have some basic knowledge of African history and literature.

Class Format:

Seminar-style, discussion-based format


ENGLISH 389 - Literature in African History
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
Partial Term 8/31/20 - 12/10/20
011 (SEM)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
8/31/20 - 12/8/20

Textbooks/Other Materials

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CourseProfile (Atlas)

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