ENGL 312 B01: African Writing in English

O. Okome

Women in Anglophone African Literature
Much of the debate around African women’s literature is connected to two intricately related fields of cultural inquiry-the male-centric discourse of the production of culture and the gendered nature of postcolonial studies in Africa. Both fields of inquiry are connected to the larger project: African cultural production in the postcolonial state. African women’s literary texts trouble the content of this male-centric literary and critical discourse; a discourse that insists on “naming” the role of women in the production of culture in Africa. Since the first set of books by African women came out in the late 1970s, the narrative quest has focused on interrogating this critical “desire” to re-write women as active subjects in Africa’s social and cultural matters. Nana Wilson Togoe describes this desire eloquently when she argues that African women’s literary texts investigate “gender as a fundamental category of literary analysis, enabling the critic to see representation in texts as mediated by sexual difference and the aesthetic and political assumptions that surround them” (1997). However, what this critic does not say is that African women’s literary texts are linked to and often mobilize features of the auto/biographical genre, which gives a measure of social truth and political valence to this collective desire. This course takes off from this position. It recognizes African women’s literature as auto/biographical testimonies of gendered abjectness. The reading selected for this class will focus on instances of the ecriture feminine in Africa that are validated by the discursive trope of the auto/biographical. The purpose of this class then is to twofold: to provide a firm introduction to context and text of African literature and to read women as an important part of this textual culture.

Literary Texts
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
J.M Coetzee, Disgrace
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Weep Not Child
Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood
Nawal el Saadawi, God Dies by the Nile
Mariama Ba, So Long A Letter

Compulsory Critical Texts
-Tejumola Olaniyan and Ato Quayson (ed.), African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory (London: Blackwell, 2007).
-Margaret Jean Hayes, African Novel in the Classroom. London: Lynn Reiner, 2000.
-Monica M. White, “Familial Influence in the Autobiographies of Black South African and African American Women Activists,”
-Tess Cossett et al, Feminism and Autobiography: Text, Theory, Method. London: Routledge, 2000.