African 606: African Historical Fiction

Fall 2019

Luis Madureira
3 credits
TF 3:30-5pm

Fulfills Literature, Advanced

We begin with the following question: what is at stake, aesthetically, ethically and politically, in African appropriations of the historical drama and novel? How are we to understand these works’ claims to referential truth? Does African historical drama and fiction reflect a desire to assert the authority and therefore political significance of an African perspective on the colonial and precolonial eras? If so, is there an inevitable contradiction in advancing such historical claims through fiction? What are the entanglements inherent to the adoption of a classical (late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century) European genre that is buttressed by notions of cultural difference, gendered subjectivity and teleological time that postcolonial reinterpretations of the past would seek at least to interrogate, if not undo? What is the status of their “provisional” interpretations of real or historical phenomena? To coin Harry E. Shaw’s formulation of the central problem of the historical novel, how can fictional characters signify the contexts and situations they are meant to exemplify? Exploring several critical approaches to historical drama and fiction’s referential claims, we will try to address these questions as thoughtfully and painstakingly as we can.

Materials include:

* Fictional and dramatic works by some of the following writers: Achebe, Aidoo, Maryse Condé, Mia Couto, Boris Diop, Assia Djebar, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, Pepetela, Sembene and Soyinka.

* A selection of films might include: Keita, Rainha Jinga, Sambizanga, Yeelen.

* Selections of theoretical and critical works on (postcolonial) (historical) fiction.