Syllabus Project

ENGL 430: Explorations of Gothic (M)Otherhood in African Fiction

Course Description:

This course will locate and address themes of isolation and anxiety in a selection of female, mother, and child experiences from colonial and postcolonial African fiction. To do so, scenes of woman-, mother- and childhood will be viewed through the multifaceted lens of female gothic tradition. This course is designed to encourage engagement with matters such as identity, anxiety, gender roles, abjection, genre, and horror, as well as intersections between multiple topics. The critical readings and fiction of this course are largely geared towards the following: (1) abjection and anxieties concerning motherhood and femininity and (2) the presence of said themes within the figure of the Abiku or Ogbanje. Texts, discussion and class projects will examine and theorize the use of gothic horror in the images of womanhood and subjectivity this course offers.

Course Goals:

  • Position portrayals of African motherhood & womanhood within the feminist and feminist gothic traditions
  • Develop critical arguments concerning intersections of African female and gothic experiences in fiction
  • Analyze gothic themes of abjection and isolation through a selection of African novels and short stories

Citations

  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Headstrong Historian.” The Thing Around Your Neck. New York: Anchor Books, 2009. 198-218.
  • Almond, Barbara. The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood. Oakland: University of California Press, 2010.
  • Helgadottir, Margret, and Jo Thomas, eds. African Monsters. Vol. 2. Fox Spirit Books, 2015.
  • Joseph-Vilain, Melanie. “‘The Famished Road’: Ben Okri’s Family Romance?” Commonwealth Essays and Studies2 (2013): 67-78.
  • Khair, Tabish. The Gothic, Postcolonialism, and Otherness: Ghosts from Elsewhere. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
  • Ladele, Omolola A. “The Àbikú Mystique – The Metaphor of Subversive Narrative in Buchi Emecheta’s Kehinde.” Matatu: Journal for African Culture & Society1 (2013): 255-70.
  • Mary, Balogun Olayinka, and Remy Oriaku. “Charting the Growth of Gyno-Texts in Nigerian Prose Fiction.” Journal of Pan African Studies9 (2014): 117-34.
  • Nnolim, Charles E. Issues in African Literature. Lagos: Malthouse Press, 2009.
  • Ouma, Christopher. “Reading the Diasporic Abiku in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl.” Research in African Literatures3 (2014): 188-205.
  • Smith, Andrew, and Diana Wallace. “The Female Gothic: Then and Now.” Gothic Studies1 (2004): 1-7.
  • Ward, Cynthia. “What They Told Buchi Emecheta: Oral Subjectivity and the Joys of ‘Otherhood’.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America1 (1990): 83-97.

Novels

  • The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
  • The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Kehinde by Buchi Emecheta
  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Schedule:

Week One:

Primary Secondary Supplementary
The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

 

“The Female Gothic: Then and Now” by Smith and Wallace

The Monster Within: Chapter 4 “’Before the Beginning’: Women’s Fears of Monstrous Births” by Almond

“Charting the Growth of Gyno-Texts in Nigerian Prose Fiction” by Mary and Oriaku

“What They Told Buchi Emecheta: Oral Subjectivity and the Joys of ‘Otherhood’” by Ward

“The Headstrong Historian” By Adichie

 

Week Two:

Primary Secondary Supplementary
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi “Reading the diasporic Abiku in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl” by Ouma

Issues in African Literature: Chapter 12 “The Unhappy Woman in Nigerian Fiction: A Mythic Interpretation of the Archetypes” by Nnolim

 

Week Three:

Primary Secondary Supplementary
Kehinde by Buchi Emecheta

 

 

“The Àbikú Mystique – The Metaphor of Subversive Narrative in Buchi Emecheta’s Kehinde” by Ladele

African Monsters: “One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sunlight”, “Sacrament of Tears”, and “Bush Baby” from Helgadottir and Thomas, eds.

The Famished Road by Ben Okri [Early start recommended]

 

Week Four:

Primary Secondary Recommended
The Famished Road by Ben Okri The Gothic, Postcolonialism, and Otherness: “Chapter 9: The Option of Magical Realism” and “Summing it Up” by Khair

“’The Famished Road’: Ben Okri’s Family Romance?” by Joseph-Vilain

 

 

 

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7 Responses to Syllabus Project

  1. mmagnero says:

    Chalice,
    This course is very well-designed. The focus is clear and specific, and all of the texts seem to have clear and strong connections. Your bibliography was very helpful to me, as I was examining and thinking through the genre of the African gothic for my syllabus as well. I like the idea of the supplementary texts; one possible in-class activity for stories such as “Headstrong Historian” or shorter texts could be to have them do some sort of group work or discussion activity.

    Like

    • Chalice says:

      I’m definitely into the idea of using the short stories for activities and break-out groups; students would be able to focus closely on character development and dynamics in ways that could open up discussion on the larger texts. It was also a way for me add my two favorite things: short stories and horror!

      Like

  2. lilyh92 says:

    Chalice, I want to take this class! I’m really interested in your selection of primary texts – I agree with Michelle that the connections you make are clear and strong!

    Like

    • Chalice says:

      Thanks! There were so many things I wanted to include, but I didn’t think there was a pretty way to Dr. Frankenstein a syllabus that would include every interesting text I’ve found while working on this project.

      Like

  3. Chalice, I would happily take this class. I have to second Michelle’s points about coherence, specificity, and direction. If we don’t read The Famished Road in class,I’d like to talk about with you at some point, anyway.

    Like

    • Chalice says:

      Thanks! I haven’t read Okri’s book before, but I was attracted to it since it is considered a work of magical realism. I look forward to getting a chance to read it!

      Like

  4. Anne Gulick says:

    Okri is a total badass. Chalice, this is a research project and syllabus all in one. Sign me up. I could imagine a fuller version of this project (pedagogical or scholarly or whatever) forging some great transnational connections via genre.

    Like

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