In 1983, J.M. Coetzee famously asked how it was that the great South African novel had not yet emerged, pointing to that country's extreme manifestation of the colonizer-colonized relationship, which “touches a nerve everywhere.” This seminar will ask Coetzee’s question more generally, applying his reasoning to the entire African continent in a broder, more speculative mode. What would the great African novel look like? What aesthetic and cultural criteria would constitute such a category? What new modes of reading and analysis might we need to read such fiction?
Along the way, we'll revel in the richness of the fiction, seeking to understand the variation between realist novels like Achebe’s Arrow of God, modernist fiction like Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, and experimental books like Djebar’s Children of the New World. We'll also ask to what extent novels like Sembene’s God’s Bits of Wood, Tansi’s Life and a Half and Ngugi’s Petals of Blood are part of colonial, national, provincial, and transnational literary traditions, formed around histories of (P/p)an-Africanism, Bandung-era nationalism, and anti-imperialism.
This course is a junior research seminar and will include research and essay assignments culminating in a final project. At the end of the semester these will be collected into a final portfolio.