English 8xx-Reterritorializing the African Novel
In 2010, popular Afrikaans writer Annelie Botes committed a particularly heinous gaffe while being interviewed; when asked what group of people she disliked, if any, she responded with “Black people.” This sentiment, coming from a woman writer speaking a language only 13% of South Africans learn as their first language, had wide-reaching repercussions for Botes—google her name, and six years later, this is still the first story to come up about her. Obvious racism aside, Botes’ declamation of South African blacks is problematic because it represents a striking example of reterritorialization, or, a reabsorption into dominant discourses of hierarchy and power by minority figures whose own work strives to break away from those very practices. Indeed, reterritorialization seems to threaten not only the novelists and artists whose work fuels the practice of literary criticism, but perhaps ever more virulently, academia itself.
This course is indebted to exploring instances of reterritorialization in the modern and contemporary African novel. To that end we will be particularly attentive to ways in which authors writing against the Western tradition of the novel remain beholden to discourses of white and/or hegemonic power in African society or art while still stmultaneously functioning as a diagnosis or panacea of its virulence. This course intends to broach questions of assimilation, colorblindness, poverty, gender, sexuality, and, of course, race, in order to determine where our own scholarship becomes most vulnerable to reterritorializing practices (despite our best interests). We will begin with Botes’s own novel Mountain of Lost Dreams, then move into more urban spaces with Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207. Aminatta Forma’s The Memory of Love will then provide some context on how history itself functions as an archive of discourse. Finally, we will close this interrogation with the work of Berni Searle, a contemporary artist whose bodily preoccupations gel well with the last novel we’ll be reading, A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass.
-Better understand how and why the African novel has difficulty extricating itself from discourses of power.
-Gain a familiarity with the state of the contemporary African novel.
-Develop a clear understanding of the relationship between criticism and literature as a product of knowledge production.
-Demonstrate the ability to synthesize themes from the course into a coherent term paper.
Botes, Annelie. Mountain of Lost Dreams. Johannesburg: Penguin SA, 2012.
Moele, Kgebetli. Room 207. Cape Town: NB Publishers, 2011.
Forma, Aminatta. The Memory of Love. New York: Grove Press, 2011.
Barrett, A. Igoni. Blackass. Minneapolis: Greywolf Press, 2016.
Tuesday: Mountain of Lost Dreams
Thursday: Finish Mountain of Lost Dreams
Verwey, Cornel, and Michael Quayle. “Whiteness, racism, and Afrikaner identity in post-apartheid South Africa.” African Affairs 111.445 (2012): 551-575.
Tuesday: Room 207
Thursday: Finish Room 207
Milazzo, Marzia. “Racial Power And Colorblindness: The ‘Sad Black Stories’ Of Kgebetli Moele’s Room 207 And Twenty-First Century Black South African Fiction.” Journal Of Commonwealth & Postcolonial Studies 1.1 (2013): 33-59.
Tuesday: The Memory of Love
Thursday: Finish The Memory of Love
Harrow, Kenneth W. “Suturing Two Worlds: Aminatta Forna’s The Memory Of Love.” Journal Of Commonwealth & Postcolonial Studies 1.1 (2013): 13-32.
Vincent, Louise, and Simon Howell. “Embracing Racial Reasoning: The DASO Poster Controversy and ‘Race’ Politics in Contemporary South Africa.” Journal of Southern African Studies 40.1 (2014): 75-90.
Thursday: Finish Blackass
Berni Searle—I have no idea how to put artwork on a syllabus.