The City in African Literature
Theme: This graduate course is designed to invite students to reconsider the role of urban spaces within African literature. Together, we will consider the ways in which socio-political and geographic realities are represented and configured within the imaginary space of the novel. In what ways do African novelists intervene in the discourse of urbanity? What, exactly, is the relationship between the globalized form of the novel and the globalized forms of urban space? How do African writers abroad reimagine non-African cities? Through a variety of mediums and genres, including novels, documentary film, travelogue, and critical essays, this course will combine literary theory with geographic inquiry to provide new frameworks for considering the reality and the representation of cities in African literature and beyond.
After completing this course, students will have ideally
- expanded their familiarity with African literature
- developed a better understanding of the role of place in African fiction
- engaged with the economic, political, social, and geographic realities of various city spaces
- established connections between artistic forms and forms of urbanity
- enjoyed themselves to some degree
Week 1 – Johannesburg
Vladislavic, Ivan. The Restless Supermarket.
Mbembe, Achille. “Aesthetics of Superfluity.” Public Culture 16.3 (2004): 373-405.
Simone, AbdoulMaliq. For the City Yet to Come. (Read “Introduction” and “Cities and Change”)
Week 2 – Washington, D.C.
Mengestu, Dinaw. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.
Ledent, Bénédicte. “Reconfiguring the African Diaspora in Dinaw Mengestu’s the Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”. Research in African Literatures 46.4 (2015): 107–118.
Banerjee, Swapna. Accumulation through Dispossession: Transformative Cities in the New Global Order. (Read “Introduction: Transformative Cities in the New Global Order.”)
Week 3 – Lagos
Saro-wiwa, Noo. Looking For Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria.
Koolhass, Rem. Lagos, Wide and Close. (Film)
Watts, Michael. “Oil City: Petro-landscapes and Sustainable Future.” Ecological Urbanism. Ed. Gareth Doherty and Mohsten Mostafavi. Baden: Lars Muller, 2010. 420-430.
Week 4 – New York
Cole, Teju. Open City.
De Certeau, Michel. “Walking in the City” The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 91-130.
Vermeulen, Pieter. “Flights of Memory: Teju Cole’s Open City and the Limits of Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism”. Journal of Modern Literature 37.1 (2013): 40–57.