African 802: Theory of African Literature

Fall 2016
Tejumola Olaniyan

Cover art of African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory

This course is a detailed exploration of the many ways the practitioners of African literature—writers and scholars—have tried to understand the literature—its origins, languages, contents, forms, functions, genres, and audiences. It is also a study of the conditions of production, circulation, and consumption of the literature and commentaries about it. Finally, the course investigates African literature and its study both as African and as part of a global enterprise of literary production. We will survey the entrenched modes of conceptual and critical apprehension of the literature (from Negritude to postcolonialism and postmodernism), explore their methods of reading, raise the issue of their linkages to sources in Euro-America, and assess the extent to which the unique concerns of the literature (expressed by its writers and scholars) have tried to tame and refashion what are now globally shared critical tools of reading. The goal of the course is not to teach European literary theories and how they can be “applied” to African literature; its goal is a critical study of the many ways, “local” or “foreign,” African literature has been theorized by those who write and comment on the literature. Readings will include full-length scholarly studies as well as articles and book chapters.

Course requirements: class presentations, two papers, and one book review for publication.