Syllabus Project:Perspective on Nigeria


ENGL 2**: The Modern African Novel

Theme: Perspectives on Nigeria

This course examines various narratives of Nigerian culture from voices that are sometimes overshadowed by the ubiquity of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The aim of this course is not only to encounter various texts from Nigeria but also to examine them in context. The assigned readings are meant to provide insight into the social, political, and economic forces that shape Nigerian literature. This course will also treat modern Nigerian literature in the wider context of postcolonial theory. Short, in-class, reading/writing assignments will give students practice applying different concepts from postcolonial theory.

Course Goals

  • Gain literacy in the language, tropes, devices, allegories, and other salient features of Nigerian literature through novels, memoirs, literary criticism, and other forms of media.
  • Increased critical awareness of how the colonial legacy influences the culture and politics of Nigeria
  • Provide an overview of important concepts in postcolonial theory
  • Exposure to underrepresented narratives and perspectives of Nigeria

Required Texts

  • Flora Nwapa, Efuru
    • Written in response to Things Fall Apart, Efuru offers a feminist counterpoint to Achebe’s Okonkwo. Of particular interest to our class are the differences in how narratives of oppression are expressed in these two texts. We will read Efuru in conjunction with chapters from Stratton’s Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender
  • Noo Saro-Wiwa, Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
    • Scholar, poet, and political activist Ken Saro-Wiwa has been called the “Martin Luther King” of Nigeria. The target of much of his criticism was the corrupt relationship between Nigerian political elites and the oil industry. He was assassinated in a coordinated effort between Shell Oil Company and the Nigerian government. In her memoir, his daughter gives an account of these events from her perspective as a child growing up in England and as an adult straddling conflicting identities.

Other Readings

  • Florence Stratton, Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender
    • Chapter Two: The Mother Africa Trope
    • Chapter Four: Flora Nwapa and the Female Novel of Development
  • Ashutosh Singh “Spivak and Western Feminism.”
  • G’ebinyo Ogbowei and Ibiere Bell-Gam, “Sozaboy: Language and a Disordered World”
  • Ken Saro-Wiwa, “The Language of African Literature: A Writer’s Testimony”

Reading Schedule

Week one

Tues: The Mother Africa Trope, Intro to Ch.12 Efuru

Thurs: Ch. 13-end Efuru
Week two
Tues: Flora Nwapa and the Female Novel of Development

Thurs: Spivak and Western Feminism

Week three

Tues: Transwonderland 1-3, The language of African Literature

Thurs: Transwonderland 4-6, Language and a Disordered World

Week four

Tues: Transwonderland 7-12

Thursday:Transwonderland 13-end

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4 Responses to Syllabus Project:Perspective on Nigeria

  1. mmagnero says:

    A novel or some short stories by Adiche might work well for this class.Both the course goals and the pacing here seem very well suited to a 200-level class, and I like that you have provided a brief description of the course texts on the syllabus, as well as mentioning the reading and writing assignments that the students will complete.


  2. lilyh92 says:

    As Michelle notes, I can easily see this class being a 200-level class – the work load is comparable to what my current ENGL 285 students have. I like your course goals and how you’ve focused your syllabus. If we don’t get to look at it in our own class, I would be interested in talking about Efuru with you as I am intrigued by the notion of a feminist counterpart to Okonkwo.


  3. What’s most appealing to me about your syllaubus is its compact scope. It’s an appropriate workload for a 200 level course, and I think the aim to read texts in context would allow students to explore the relevance of intertexualtiy and help them to develop informed concepts of a literature with which they’re unfamiliar. Personally, for I would love to read Transwonderland; its focus seems to be on blending or bleeding outside of socially constructred borders. Also, I was so close to choosing Efuru. Michelle’s suggestion to include short readings–like “The Headstrong Historian,” even is a good one.


  4. Anne Gulick says:

    I love the idea of creating a course that pushes back against the ubiquity of Things Fall Apart, especially for students who have already encountered this novel in high school. I wonder whether you would consider teaching another Achebe text? Emecheta is another Nigerian writer who might pair well with Nwapa. And for a work that signals a dramatic *formal* departure from Achebe, Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (or maybe one of his short stories) would be great.


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