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African Literature: Texts and Contexts

ENGL 280.401
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

Africa has produced some of the most dynamic fiction of the twentieth century. The Anglophone literary tradition in Africa has a peculiar history. Chinua Achebe, the "father" of that tradition, saw himself as correcting the constructions of Africa in Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Joyce Carey's Mr Johnson. Achebe's re- writing is his now classic first novel Things Fall Apart. This novel set the aesthetic coordinates for the fiction that would follow: if British writers constructed a passive, feminine Africa, then the aesthetically correct response was a muscular discourse of authenticity and resistance. This, at least, is how the novel has been read and how the Anglophone literary tradition has been constructed. With independence, and the disillusionment that followed, some have begun to re- read the tradition and wonder if the instability that followed independence finds echoes in the failure to imagine a more pluralist novelistic voice. When we recall that most of the first generation of writers were themselves statesmen, the claim may not be so far-fetched. This course explores the ways in which African fiction in English captures this and other pressure points of African identities. Along with Achebe, we might read Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana), Malika Mokeddem (Algeria), Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe), Mariamma Ba (Senegal), Tayeb Salih (Sudan), Nuruddin Farah (Somalia), Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya).