Syllabus Project

African Novel: African Women Writers and the Literature of Exile


Course Description

This 600-graduate level course will be guided by the following questions: what are the elements of the hybrid cultures? If decolonization of the mind can be achieved, and violence begets violence, and the signs of the colonizers cannot be eradicated, and the former and purest form of the nation before invasion cannot be regained, what then of the mixtures? What culture do the blended peoples create? Which forms do they enlist to do this, and what are the implications? We will explore structures that toe borders—that capitalize on using elements of more than one genre to illuminate narratives that neither genre could reveal completely independently. To that end, much of the material for this course is cross-genre. You will also be responsible for reading and briefly evaluating one critical text per week; you’ll be responsible for finding those texts and making them available for your peers on the class blog.


Course Goals:

  • Complete one creative project in which you exercise creative writing and/or visual craft.
  • Develop critical reading and analysis skills
  • Analyze themes of marginalization through a selection of cross-genre (primarily) West African Novels
  • Analyze literature from African Women writers
  • Define and apply theoretic lenses including feminist and queer theories


Week 1

Dates: 4/5 & 4/7
Hyrbridity/Cross genre literature+Queer Lit+Literature of Exile
Tues: Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo (1977) (Ghanian, Anglophone)

Thurs: Wilentz, Gay (1991) “The Politics of Exile: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy,” Studies in 20th Century Literature: Vol. 15: Iss. 1, Article 12.

Selections from Hale, Dorothy. The Novel: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory 1900-2000 John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
Week 2

Dates: 4/12 &4/14
Tues: So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ, Modupé Bodé-Thomas (1989) (Senegal, Francophone)

ThursObioma Nnaemeka.”Feminism, Rebellious Women, and Cultural Boundaries: Rereading Flora Nwapa and Her Compatriots” Research in African Literatures. (Summer 1995)
Week 3

Dates:4/19 & 4/21
Tues: Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adiche (2005) (Nigerian, Anglophone)

Thurs: Selections from Eustace Palmer. Of War and Women, Oppression and Optimism: New Essays on the African Novel. Africa World Press. 2008

Week 4

Dates: 4/26 &4/28
The African Graphic Novel
Tues: Marguerite Abouet, Aya de Yopougon.
Marguerite Abouet and John Zuarino. An Interview with Marguerite Abouet. Bookslut. May 2007

Thurs: Repetti, Massimo. “African Wave: Specificity and Cosmopolitanism in African Comics”. African Arts40.2 (2007): 16–35. Web.

Chapter 6 Kukkonen, Studying Comics + Graphic Novels. John Wiley & Sons. 2013.

Additonal Reading: Comic art in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America : a comprehensive, international bibliography / compiled by John A. Lent ; forewords by Effat Abdel Azim, Esmail, Abu Abraham, and Ares (Aristides Esteban Hernández Guerraro).

Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996

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7 Responses to Syllabus Project

  1. mmagnero says:

    When I saw your syllabus, my first thought was “in a class that examines experimental form in African novels, how could I have forgotten Our Sister Killjoy?” So if I do ever get to teach the class
    I created for this project, I will definitely be adding Ato’s text. I like the idea of incuding a graphic novel and if you ever taught this as an undergrad class one interesting assignment could be to have students do a comparative analysis of how they read a certain course theme in two different mediums- that of graphic novel and that of alphabetic text.


    • That’s a really useful suggestion. I hope we get to teach some version of each of these courses inthe next couple of years. I haven’t read Ato’s text, but I’m really looking forward to it. I think it would be interesting to compare it to Jean Toomer’s Cane and to discuss Modernism across cultures.


  2. Maya,
    Your syllabus concept is so beautiful and unique! I love the multiplicity of genres that you’ve included.

    Michelle and I both included Purple Hibiscus on our syllabi as well! If we don’t read it together as a class, we should all read it this summer as have a book club session to talk about it.


  3. Chalice says:

    I think this course would encourage paying attention to genre and considering different ones as vehicles for depictions of gender and sexuality; I’m sure it would foster a lot of discussion! I also appreciate the way you and others formulated syllabi that have an overarching idea with subtopics that build upon each other.
    On a side note, your course description is downright beautiful! It sounds like a movie trailer voice-over.


    • Considerations of depictions of gender and sexuality as they relate to the cross-genre vehicles are absolutely indended. I’m glad the syllabus invites the connection, though I suppose I should have articulated that current in the goals/learning outcomes. I can’t help but hear, “In a world where…there’s only one woman who can save them!” when you mention voice-over.


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