African Narratives (EAS3190)

StaffDr Kate Wallis - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will introduce you to African literature and film and is centred upon three core themes:

  • diverse forms of identity-making (narratives of Independence, African feminisms, language politics)
  • geographies (new cartographies, nationalism, pan-Africanism)
  • circulation (cultures of publishing, literary activism, popular cultures, cultural value).                 

You will explore these key themes through close readings of texts, considering the ways in which narrative structures and aesthetics both intersect with and can contribute to an understanding of the social, cultural, economic and political issues that have defined life on the continent over the last 60 years. 

You will consider texts using a wide-range of theoretical lenses including postcolonialism, Afropolitanism, pan-Africanism, migration and diaspora, language and identity, gender, and African popular cultures. Both the literary and theoretical texts studied on this module will be Africa-centred, developing critical thinking skills that move away from dominant Euro-American perspectives.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed critical appreciation of specific films and literature by African authors produced from 1960 (post-independence) to the present
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to relate African film and fiction to different textual forms and media and to the social, economic, cultural, political and historical contexts out of which they emerge
  • 3. Articulate and evaluate the significance of literary and filmic texts through different and Africa-centred theoretical perspectives (Postcolonialism, Transnationalism, African Feminisms, African Popular Cultures)
  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse African literature and film (1960 to present) and to relate its concerns and its modes of representation to different social, political, economic and historical contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate a developed ability to apply skills of close reading and to make connections between different texts across the module
  • 6. Demonstrate advanced skills in the research and evaluation of relevant critical, historical and theoretical materials for the study of film and literature
  • 7. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and interrelate texts and discourses in relation to familiar and new conceptual and theoretical frameworks, and an ability to link and synthesise different modes of analyses of relevant theoretical ideas

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographical skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, a capacity to write clear and correct prose and develop planning, organisational and problem solving skills
  • 9. Through group-work and discussion, demonstrate the ability to think laterally and demonstrate originality in problem solving and lines of questioning, express and communicate creative ideas, and initiate and sustain creative projects
  • 10. Through research and writing, demonstrate an advanced capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, and to reflect on their own learning process

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Identities
    • Nationalism
    • African Feminism
    • Language Debates
    • Cultural Memory
  • Geographies
    • New Cartographies
    • African Cities
    • Pan-Africanism
  • Circulations
    • African Popular Cultures
    • Literary Prizes
    • Literary Activism

Workshop topics may include ‘Interviewing Skills’, ‘Blogging African Literature’ and ‘Literary and Film Festivals’.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 22Sessions will focus on an in-depth discussion of the literary and filmic texts.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 11Workshops. Workshops will develop both critical and practical approaches to spaces of African literary production including small magazines, blogging, spoken word nights, literary prizes and literary festivals. Not only will these workshops provide a critical space to ask questions about the categories ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ and the ways in which digital technology has redefined contemporary African literary production, they will also enable you to develop practical knowledge and skills useful for a future career in publishing or the creative industries. This aspect of the module will be further supported through a group-assignment focused around either interviewing a key figure involved in African cultural production for the blog Africa in Word.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 7Film Screenings x 4
Guided Independent Study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided Independent Study70Module preparation (individual)
Guided Independent Study157Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Module Participation Ongoing through the term9Tutorial follow-up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Interview with African cultural producer and write-up. 302000 words1-2, 4, 6, 9-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay proposal201000 words1-7,8,10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay503500 words1-7,8,10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Interview with African cultural producer and write-upInterview with African cultural producer and write-up1-2, 4, 6, 9-10Referral/Deferral period
Essay proposalEssay proposal1-7,8,10Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-7,8,10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Texts studied on the module may include:

  • Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1969)
  •  Rebekah Njau, Ripples in the Pool (1975)
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, One Day I Will Write About This Place (2011)
  • Koleka Putuma, Collective Amnesia (2017)

Screenings of the following films:

  • Djibril Diop Mambéty, Touki Bouki (1973)
  • Biyi Bandele, Half of a Yellow Sun (2014)
  • Mati Diop, Atlantics (2019)

Secondary Reading:

  • Achebe, Chinua. ‘The African Writer and the English Language’, in Williams and Chrisman (eds.), Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013) pp.428-434.
  • Adichie, Chimamanda We Should All Be Feminists (London: Fourth Estate, 2014).
  • Barber, Karin. "Popular Arts in Africa." African Studies Review 30 (3) (1987):1-78.
  • Currey, James. Africa Writes Back: The African Writers Series & The Launch of African Literature (Oxford: James Currey, 2008).
  • Gikandi, Simon. "Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality." The South Atlantic Quarterly 100 (3) (2001):627-58.
  • Nnaemeka, Obioma, "Negoâ??Feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa’s Way," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29, no. 2 (Winter 2004): 357-385.
  • Mbembe, Achille, and Sarah Nuttall. "Writing the World from an African Metropolis." Public Culture 16 (3) (2004):347-372.
  • Newell, Stephanie, and Onookome Okome, eds. Popular Culture in Africa:The Episteme of the Everyday. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014).
  • Wainaina, Binyavanga. "How to Write about Africa." Granta 92 (2005).

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Key words search

African literature, African film, Publishing, Popular Cultures, Identities, Geographies, Circulations