African 901: The Form of the African Novel

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This course studies the form of the novel as it emerges in Africa. We are interested in how the African novel works, how it exhibits literary properties, and how it generates interpretive problems. Our study will privilege the architectonics of narrative form over thematic concerns, national identity, and the mere fact of the colonial context. In other words, we will attempt to identify what is African about the African novel by cataloging and analyzing unique patterns of ideas, rhetorical elements, figures, techniques of composition, and discursive registers generated from within the African literary archive. The course is, thus, divided into two parts. In the first part, we will study a selection of pre-modern African literary texts, ranging from 17th century Ethiopian hagiographies to Yoruba divinatory verses. In the second section of the course, we will then use the terms, concepts, and paradigms excavated from our study of these pre-modern texts to explain the formal and aesthetic innovation within a selection of African novels, which includes Mofolo’s Chaka, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy, Coetzee’s Dusklands, Jose Agualusa’s The Book Chameleons, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, and Jeniffer Makumbi’s Kintu.