Syllabus Project M.Magnero

English 282: Genre and Form in the African Novel
Instructor: Michelle Magnero

Course Description
This course will introduce you to the examination and analysis of the African novel. We will focus our reading this semester on genre and form. Our journeys in this course will take us from African science fiction to ghost stories and surrealist texts, as well as to an examination of a variety of experimental narrative techniques. Rather than focusing on the “what” of these texts- in other words, what these texts say- will we direct our inquiries to the “how” of how generic and formal elements help shape textual meaning in African and postcolonial literature. Topics will include postcolonial otherness and its relationship to science fiction, non-linear narration, frame stories, haunting and/or haunted texts, and postmodernism. Over the course of the semester, each student will be responsible for 2 critical essays, a midterm exam, weekly blog posts related to the assigned reading, and bi-weekly class discussion group presentations related to your blog posts.

Course Goals
-Situate African science fiction within larger scholarly conversations on Afrofuturism and African Diasporic SF, and be able to explain how African SF uses genre functions to comment on issues related to colonialization and postcoloniality.

-Gain an understanding of how experimental and non-traditional narrative structures are used to make meaning in postcolonial literatures.

-Articulate the function of genre in the African ghost story and African gothic novel.

-Develop critical reading and analysis skills.

-Practice writing critical and analytic academic arguments.

-Gain an understanding of writing as a public activity through the creation and maintenance of an individual blog.

Required Texts
Adiche,Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus (2003).

Bandele, Biyi. The Man Who Came in From the Back of Beyond (1991).

Beukes, Lauren. Zoo City (2010).

Coetzee, JM. Foe (1986).

Dib, Mohammed. Who Remembers the Sea (1962).

Gordimer, Nadine. The Conservationist (1974).

Iweala, Uzodinma. Beasts of No Nation (2005).

Okorafor, Nnedi. Who Fears Death (2010).

Salih, Tayeb. Season of Migration to the North (1966).

Grade Breakdown
Daily class participation- 10%
Weekly Blog Posts- 20%
Blog Discussion Group Shares-10%
Midterm Exam-20%
Genre Analysis Essay-20%
Narrative Analysis Essay-20%

Description of Major Assignments
Participation: Includes preparedness for class and active participation in class discussion.
Weekly blog posts: Short responses (about 200-250 words) that show critical engagement with that week’s readings. Critical engagement will constitute moving beyond plot summary and into analysis and discussion of the novel and of its generic and narrative features. Please post your response to your course blog no later than 10pm on the day before we will be discussing the material.
Blog Discussion Group Shares: Every other week, you will meet in class with a group of 3 other students to share and discuss your blog posts. (Please come to class having read your group member’s posts.) Each group will prepare brief talking points about the novel to share with the class.
Midterm Exam: Will consist of 2 short answer questions and 2 brief essay questions that will provide you an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the course content.
Genre Analysis Essay: 4-5 page, thesis and argument-driven paper in MLA format that addresses how the generic elements of either 1) African science fiction or 2) the African ghost story or African gothic operate within one course text. Your paper should go beyond discussing the generic elements of your chosen text to explain how or why the argument you are making is important or significant (the “So What”).
Narrative Analysis Essay: 4-5 page, thesis and argument-driven paper in MLA format that explains how narrative and/or structural devices help to create meaning within a given text. As with the genre analysis essay, for this assignment your analysis should not only present discussion of the narrative elements, but should also suggest to the reader the importance or significance of your claims.

Sample Schedule
Sample Unit 1: African Science Fiction

Day 1 Mohammed Dib, Who Remembers the Sea

Day 2 Mohammed Dib, Who Remembers the Sea

-Additional critical reading on Dib TBA (Bb)

Day 3 Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death

Day 4 Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death
           -In-class: Blog discussion group share

Sample Unit 2: Non-traditional narration and experimental forms 

Day 1 Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North

Day 2 Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North

-Additional critical reading on Salih TBA (Bb)

Day 3 Biyi Bandele, The Man Who Came in From the Back of Beyond

Day 4 Biyi Bandele, The Man Who Came in From the Back of Beyond

-In-class: Blog discussion group share

Further reading:
Bould, Mark, ed. Paradoxa 25. “Africa SF.” n.d.

Caplan, Mark. How Strange the Change: Language, Temporality, and Narrative Form in
Peripheral Modernisms
. Stanford UP, 2011.

Dubey, Madhu. Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism. Chicago: U of Chicago P,

Hassan, Wail S. Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction. Syracuse UP, 2003.

Hopkinson, Nalo, ed.  So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004.

Mabura, Lily G. N.  “Breaking Gods: An African Postcolonial Gothic Reading of
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun.” Research in African
39.1 (Spring 2008): 203-222.

Langer, Jessica. Postcolonialism and Science Fiction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Levy, Judith. “Narrative as a Way of Being: Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist.”
Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas 4.2 (June 2006): 103-114.

Lopez, Maria. “Foe: A Ghost Story.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 45.2 (2010):
295- 310.

Okorafor, Nnedi. “African Science Fiction is Still Alien.” Nnedi’s Wahala Zone Blog. 15
January 2014.

Okorafor, Nnedi. The Shadow Speaker. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Quayson, Ato. “Modernism and Postmodernism in African Literature.” The Cambridge
History of African and Caribbean Literature Volume 2
. Eds. F. Abiola Irele and Simon
Gikandi. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 824-852.

“Symposium on Science Fiction and Globalization.” Science Fiction Studies 39.3 (November
2012): 372-384.

Thomas, Sheree, Ed. Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora.
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2001.

Zimbler, Jarad. JM Coetzee and the Politics of Style. Cambridge University Press, 2014.


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2 Responses to Syllabus Project M.Magnero

  1. You’ve put together a thorough and cohesive syllabus based on a interesting subject. For what it’s worth, it’s a subject that will catch the attention of the student population who would take the class, and that makes it marketable to the faculty who would have to approve it. The idea of devloping a sense of writing as a public activity is crucial. It’s so valuable to see it articulated here.


  2. Anne Gulick says:

    So many amazing titles here. Sign me up! (For real, because I haven’t read the vast majority of the texts you found and this Afrofuturism stuff is HOT right now!)


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