ENGL 384 A1: Popular Culture: Reading Popular Texts

O. Okome

Regarded for a long time as unreliable sources for articulating and promoting complex social and philosophical ideas, teaching popular text was frowned upon until recently but as scholars have found out, the production and consumption of this category of text flourish in spite of this scholarly neglect. In Africa, Anthony Kwame Appiah points to the unique place that the popular literary text occupies in the everyday life of Africans when he argues that in spite of the odds, African popular cultural production continues "to grow a pace." Although attitude to the study of popular arts and the cultures they generate has changed somewhat recently, emphasis is still heavily tilted towards the teaching of the so-called African canonical texts across the globe. Recognizing this history of scholar neglected, this course will deal with and asks questions about the nature and context of this art form, focusing on the study of African romance novels and Onitsha market pamphlets. Our study of both categories of popular texts will proceed with the critical analysis of the form, context and content. We will be asking a set of questions as we read samples of these texts. Why, for example, do we consider them "popular?" Can they harbor worthwhile ideological positions that are worthy of critical attention and how do they differ from high literary culture? How do these texts deal with issues of race, gender and class?


O'Brien, Susan and Imre Szeman. Popular Culture: A User's Guide, Canada: Nelson Educational Books, 2004.

Barber, Karin. Readings in African Popular Culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mine, 2004, DVD, col; English, 177minutes.

Edgar Wallace, Sanders of the River, 1935, DVD, b/w; English, 90 minutes.

Joyce Cary's Mister Johnson, 1973, DVD, col; 98 minutes.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999. Print