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ENGL 319 A: African Literatures

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
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Close up of Laura Chrisman
Laura Chrisman

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 319 A Spring 2021: African Literatures

Professor Laura Chrisman

Spring 2021

T/Th 1.30pm-3.20pm
(This evaluation link is only for the course listed above.  It can only be accessed by students enrolled in the course.)

Online office hours: Thursdays 4-5pm, by prior appointment only (email or canvas message me in advance to schedule an appointment). Zoom ID:  948 2900 7886. I can also schedule appointments outside of the Thursday slot.

This course introduces African literature, one of the most dynamic and fertile literatures of the 20th and 21st centuries. It features a variety of texts that draw upon traditional cultures as well as European forms, and deploy satiric, realist, and experimental styles to represent African experiences. The course engages with a historical range of literature and considers the political experiences of colonialism, anti-colonial resistance, nationalism, and decolonization as contexts for textual production. We will also explore such issues as language choice, racial identity, gender construction, and the impact of capitalist globalization, which are central to many African writers and critical commentators.

Students should come away from the course with an understanding of how ideological struggles about national and postcolonial identities continue to inform global literature, and have insight into the shifting dynamics of colonialism and its aftermath. Students are expected to keep up with an intensive reading schedule. This is an upper division course and students are expected to have fluency in literary analysis. 

Primary literary texts for students to acquire through University Book Store (or elsewhere). Hard copies, please: they are easier to annotate and much easier to give page number references for when discussing the literature with class mates and developing close readings.

Zakes Mda, The Heart of Redness (Picador, 2000)

Danai Gurira, The Convert (Oberon, 2017)

Short stories, poems, theoretical/critical and contextual materials are required reading and uploaded into the Canvas ‘Files’ under specific weeks.


Provisional Schedule.

300-word Discussion Posts and two 150-word Responses are due on Mondays and Wednesdays, midnight, the day before the class dedicated to those readings. For weeks 1-4, you will be contributing Discussion Posts only (You/Africa non-assessed post plus one post in week 1, two in weeks 2-3, one post in week 4). In week 5, you will be contributing only two 150 word Responses. Weeks 6-9, you will be contributing both one Discussion Post and two Responses.

Week 1. Introduction and Colonialism readings

Week 1: primary texts, reading guides, secondary readings

Tues: Intro

In Class assignment: students write ‘You/Africa’ post  and share to Discussion Board by Tues midnight.

Approximately 2 paragraphs (I'd like more than one, but try to keep it under 4) 

The goal of this quarter's first discussion board post is to collectively create a 'story' of Africa for the class by reflecting in writing on our engagements with and experiences of Africa, Africans, and the representations of the continent and its people to which we have been exposed. 

There is not set form or style for this assignment, and it can literally be whatever you want it to be. However, I do want to say a few things in advance. 

1. I recommend pre-writing for a few minutes before you dig into your main post. The idea here is to brainstorm. Think of these questions as you do so:

What ideas or opinions of Africa do you currently hold? Where do you think you have received those ideas? Have you ever questioned them? Have you ever been to Africa or spent any time with Africans? If so, have these experiences changed any of your previously held opinions or beliefs. 

2. When you write, don't worry about how you sound. Just try to be honest and fair. You don't need to blame yourself if your image of Africa is the popular one most of us consume via news or entertainment media, what Chimamanda Adichie calls the single story of Africa-as-catastrophe. Assume that everyone's views are tentative and in formation. Instead, talk about the images that come to mind, where you remember receiving them, even about specific works of literature or film or news media and how those presented the continent to you (and possibly even why). If you are from Africa originally, or if your parents are from Africa, please feel free to share your own experience of the continent or of Western perceptions of it. However, I'd also be interested in hearing about your relationship, if you have one, with other regions of Africa: what do you know about other parts of Africa?  

Thurs: Frantz Fanon, “On Violence” (highlighted sections); Aime Cesaire, “Discourse on Colonialism” (selection); Dambudzo Marechera, “The Slow Sound of His Feet”


Week 2. Representing Colonial Domination in Theory and Literature

Week 2: primary texts, reading pointers, secondary readings. 

Tues: Frantz Fanon, ‘On National Culture’ (highlighted sections); Amilcar Cabral, ‘National Liberation and Culture’ (highlighted sections) 

Poetry: Mongane Wally Serote, “For Don M.—Banned”; Kofi Awoonor, “The Weaver Bird”;

Niyi Osundare, “The Padlock and the Key”; Jwani Mwaikusa, “Noisy Praises”;

Chenjerai Hove, “Red Hills of Home”

Short story: Yvonne Vera, “Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals”


Thurs: Steve Biko, 'White Racism and Black Consciousness’;   

Poetry: Mongane Wally Serote, “City Johannesburg”; “Alexandra”; “What’s in this Black Shit”; Dennis Brutus, “Nightsong: City”


Week 3. Anti-Colonial Nationalism, Resistance, and Gender.

Week 3: primary texts, reading pointers, secondary readings 

Tues: Short story: Don Mattera, “Afrika Road”

Poetry: Mazisi Kunene, “The Rise of the Angry Generation”

Titus Moetsabi, “Goodbye Mother” and “Nehanda’s Words”

Ari Sitas, “Motto”



 Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, ‘Stiwanism: Feminism in an African context’; Awa Thiam, "Feminism and Revolution"

Poetry: Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, “Tendril Love of Africa”; Abena P.A. Busia, “Liberation”;

Catherine Obianuju Acholonu, “Harvest of War”;  Lindiwe Mabuza, “Dream Cloud” and “Death to the Gold Mine!”


Weeks 4 and 5. Revisiting Colonial Culture, Gender and Resistance: Danai Gurira's The Convert

Watch the films, in this sequence. 

1. History of 1896-7 Chimurenga:


2. From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe: (Links to an external site.)


3. Robert Mugabe’s election, Newsnight 1980: (Links to an external site.)


Watch this short Tech Rehearsal of a scene from The Convert:


Week 4: reading pointers 

Week 5: The Convert, cont. Complete mid term draft and peer review drafts.

Week 5: Reading pointers , mid-term prompts, mid-term grading rubric 

Weds: circulate your mid term paper draft to your peer reviewers, by Weds midnight.

Thursday: in-class peer reviews of mid-terms, using grading rubrics.


Week 6. Critiques of Postcolonial/Neo-Colonial Life

Mon: final draft of mid-term due, midnight, in Canvas.

Week 6: Reading pointers, discussion post prompts, primary texts, secondary readings 

Tues: Frantz Fanon, “Trials and Tribulations of National Consciousness” (selections)



Short story: Yvonne Vera, "Independence Day"


[Lesego Rampolokeng, “Welcome to the New Consciousness”; Funso Aiyejina, "When the Monuments" ]

Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, “song at the african middle class”

Catherine Obianuju Acholonu, “Nigeria in the year 1999” [1999 saw Nigeria hold a general election that transitioned from military rule to democracy]


Week 7. Postcolonial Women writing Women.

Week 7: reading pointers, primary texts 

Theory: Joyce Chadya, "Mother Politics"

Fiction: Grace Ogot, “The Middle Door”; Lesley Arimah, “Skinned”

Poetry: Naana Banyiwa Horne, “A Note to my Liberal Feminist Sister (1)


Week 8. Postcolonial Environmental Imaginations

Week 8: primary texts, reading pointers, secondary readings 

Tues: Nnedi Okorafor, “Spider the Artist” 

Thurs: Nnedi Okorafor, “The Popular Mechanic”

[both stories are from her debut 2013 short story collection, Kabu Kabu]


Week 9 and 10: Revisiting Empire, Gender, and Environment in a “New” South Africa: Zakes Mda, The Heart of Redness.

Week 9: reading pointers, secondary readings 

For week 9, you are writing one 300 word discussion post, and two 150-word responses to the posts of others in your group. You are not writing any discussion posts or responses in Week 10.


Final Project due: Weds June 9th, midnight


Course assignments and assessments:

Contribution to discussions and small group work: 30% of final grade. Discussion posts are graded on a point scale, from 0-4 for each post. Discussion responses are graded from 0-2. All posts must be a minimum of 300 words, and all responses must be a minimum of 150 words, with the word count always stated at the end of the post. All posts and responses must contain at least one quotation from the prescribed readings, with page number provided for the quotation. All must adhere to the instructions provided for the assignment, and must be submitted by deadline unless an extension has been given by the professor.

One mid term paper of 1,200 words minimum: 30% of final grade. Graded on a point scale, from 0-30 points. Grading rubric provided above. Papers must list word count at the end of the paper. There is no penalty for writing more than 1,200 words. There is however a penalty for writing fewer than 1,200 words.

Final project,  40% of final grade. This can take various forms:

1. A conventional academic paper of 1,800 words.   The paper is graded on a point scale, from 0-40 points.  Papers must list word count at the end of the paper. There is no penalty for writing more than 1,800 words. There is however a penalty for writing fewer than 1,800 words. See below for details on writing assignments.

2. Four TIPS letters, of 400 words minimum each. TIPS is an acronym for Thing, Idea, Person (may be a non-human sentient being, such as an animal or tree), Self. Each TIP letter should engage a literary text from class that you did not write about in your mid term paper, and you can write only once about a selected text (that is, each TIP letter should deal with a different text from that written about in the other letters). The 'Thing' can be any inanimate object that makes an appearance in a literary text. The 'Idea' is an idea issuing from yourself (in interpreting a text), or from a theorist we have studied in class. If the idea is one of  a theorist, your letter needs to incorporate a literary text from class (it may be a text that is, in your view, congruent with the Idea, or in tension with it, or both congruent and in tension).  The 'Person' can be any sentient being that makes an appearance in a literary text. The Self letter needs to explore some aspect of yourself in relation to the course and its contents; you might write to the Self that wrote the initial 'You/Africa' discussion post, for instance. 

3. A creative  piece that responds to, interprets, or is inspired by the materials of the class. It can address non-African materials provided that it also addresses African materials. It can take a variety of forms. These include, but are not limited to, a written dialogue or monologue (eg, from the perspective of a theorist, author, character or object from one of the texts); a short story or poem; a visual artwork. You need to include an analytic statement, of at least 300 words, along with the piece, that explains in some detail how and why you composed this work, and any additional insights you gained about the course contents,  in the process of creating your work.

4. An edited anthology drawn from  the course's prescribed readings; it may include poems, short stories and (if you wish) extracts from the play and the novel. There should be at least two types of literature (eg, short fiction and poetry); there should be no less than five items in the anthology, not including your introduction , in which you give the rationale for your selection of these particular items (were you guided by regional? thematic? conceptual? chronological? considerations? what kind of readership is this anthology for?); you give the rationale for arranging them in the sequence that you have chosen. Your introduction should be at least 1,500 words. 

You are welcome to come up with other project ideas; you will need to clear the project with me before you start work on it.


In assigning grades, I adhere to the University grading system: see the end of the syllabus for an outline.


This includes productive writing/reading (when live, speaking and listening): the sharing of ideas, questions, issues arising from the prescribed reading; constructive engagement with the ideas of others; making connections with topics and ideas arising from previous weeks; showing initiative in non-prescribed secondary research which you share. 

In order to participate effectively in discussions, you must have thoroughly prepared the class readings. In preparing the readings please note down the page numbers of particular passages, sentences which you then direct the class's attention to: the more specific your references are, the more productive the discussion can be.

Posted discussions are opportunities for you to track your reading process and work through thoughts, reactions, and questions in informal, low-stakes writing. Your posts should be coherent and proofread, but you don’t need to have a fully formed thesis. In fact, you may find that you raise more questions than you answer. You’ll also find that your classmates’ ideas and interpretations can serve as catalysts for your own analysis later in our formal writing assignments.

Writing Assignments: All papers should be in 12 point, double spaced, each page numbered, 1 inch margins all round, Times New Roman. They should follow MLA formatting. You are responsible for proof-reading. Here is a link to the MLA guidelines:

There is a sample MLA paper at the bottom of this syllabus.

Final paper: this will be engaged with primary literary texts prescribed for this course, that you have not written about in your mid term paper.   If you are writing about the course's prescribed novel, or about the course's prescribed play, you may focus your paper entirely on that literary text (along with supporting critical/contextual materials). If you are writing on short stories, you need to write on at least two short stories. If you are writing on poems, you need to write on at least three poems. If writing on a mix of poems and short stories, you need to write on at least two primary literary texts. 

You are responsible for devising your essay’s title and topic. The topic must fall within the concerns of the course. You need to post a 100-word proposal for your final paper,b y June 3rd 10am,  and I need to approve your proposal before you start writing your paper itself.

There should be at least one outside scholarly source in the final paper ‘Works Cited’. This should be a work that your essay shows actual knowledge of; that is, works that you cite and draw upon in the essay. See the sample final papers for examples of how to use outside sources. 

Sample final paper on African literatures.docx

Sample Final Research Paper.docx

Both mid-terms and finals should display textual and conceptual engagement, argument, and original insight.

My criteria for grading midterms and finals papers include:

--The strength of reasoning. I look for a clearly-presented, rigorous and persuasive argument.

--The strength of interpretation of the primary material. I look for insight and careful analysis of the material that emerges from very close, thoughtful reading.

--The structure and organization of the paper.

--The quality of presentation, grammar and syntax.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a useful resource on the mechanics of writing: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

See in particular the sections on ‘Mechanics’, ‘Grammar’, ‘Punctuation’.


Missing class: missing required discussion posts and meetings will make it hard to succeed in this course and may negatively affect your grade. 

Late Policy: You are expected to complete and hand in all assignments on schedule.  No late assignments will be accepted without prior explanation.

Instructor Communication Rules of Conduct: Please address me by my title and last name: Professor Chrisman. E-mailed or Canvas-sent questions will generally be addressed within 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).

Do not e-mail me questions that are answered explicitly in the syllabus or on the Canvas site. I will delete these without replying…

Office Hours:  This is a time where you and I can meet outside class to discuss assignments, questions about the reading, concerns about expectations, etc.  If my scheduled hours are inaccessible to you, please email me to make appointments for another time. 

Zero Tolerance Policy: Respect for difference of all kinds is vital to creating a safe, supportive and stimulating classroom community. This class takes a zero tolerance policy toward words or actions that insult, demean, or belittle any individual or group of persons based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, ability, economic class, national origin, language, or age. Academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of discourse DO NOT protect racism or other acts of harassment and hate. Violations of this Zero Tolerance Policy may result in removal from the classroom and actions governed by the student code of conduct will be taken.

Academic Honesty: It is essential that you properly cite other people’s ideas and language in your writing. In your assignments for this course, I encourage you to cite extensively from the wide array of texts you are in dialogue with; however, you must do so properly. Summarizing someone else’s work and not citing them is considered plagiarism and has significant consequences for your career at the UW.  It may result in the failure of an assignment, the failure of the course, or expulsion from the university.  Don’t plagiarize.

 University of Washington Resources 

Accommodation: Please let me know if you need accommodation of any sort. The UW Disability Services Office (DSO) can assist you and/or you can come directly to me.  I’m very willing to take suggestions specific to this class to meet your needs.   The DSO can be contacted at, and Phone (206) 543-6450

Odegaard Writing Center (from group website): This is the place to come and chat with peer tutors and librarians, to grow as a writer in the context of whatever project is foremost in your mind. We can't magically "fix" papers for you (it wouldn't help you long-term if we could), but we can ask all kinds of smart questions and talk with you in order to help you with: Understanding your assignment — What’s expected of you? What's going on in this writing situation? Researching — Where can you find appropriate academic resources for your paper? How can you identify useful and credible sources?  Brainstorming — What directions might your writing take? Outlining — How might you shape or organize your ideas? Drafting — How can you develop your ideas and connect your thoughts coherently? Revising — How can you re-see and reconsider your large and small scale writing choices to make the writing more effective?

The Odegaard Writing Center is open to all members of the UW community. or more information or to set up an appointment, visit:

ELL/MLL English Language Learning Resources (from group website):

English Language Learner students can participate in the Odegaard Writing and Research Center “Targeted Learning Communities” (TLC). You can team up with other English language learners from your class and be partnered with an OWRC tutor, who will meet with your group once a week for an hour at a time you choose together.  The goals of these weekly meetings are to help you take control of your learning, connect with classmates, practice good study habits, and get the most out of your class. We can help you with things like: *reading difficult course texts *participating in class discussions and activities *understanding assignments *brainstorming and developing ideas that fit each new writing situation *writing successful rough drafts *seeking out feedback and revising your papers *working collaboratively with the teacher and your classmates *knowing what other resources and support services are available to you

Campus Safety (from UW website): Preventing violence is everyone's responsibility. If you're concerned, tell someone. Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger. Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.    Don't walk alone. Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).

    Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up online at (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. For more information visit the SafeCampus website at (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

 Q Center (from group website): The University of Washington Q Center builds and facilitates queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, trans, intersex, questioning, same-gender-loving, allies) academic and social community through education, advocacy, and support services to achieve a socially-just campus in which all people are valued. For more information, visit (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

 FIUTS (from group website): Foundation for International Understanding through Students: "FIUTS is an independent non-profit organization which provides cross-cultural leadership and social programming for UW's international and globally minded domestic students. FIUTS is local connections and global community!" FIUTS also offers a free international lunch on the last Wednesday of every month. Consult FIUTS' web site for a detailed calendar of events and links to many resources (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.



Your name

Professor Chrisman

English 319

Today’s Date

                                                  MLA Papers: Cite-Seeing in Seattle


            Doubtless you will think me weird for this, but one of my favorite things to do is write MLA-style short papers.  MLA feels comfortable to me in a way that other citation style guides never did—in my mind, the other styles are a bit like tuxedos: stiff and uncomfortable and only in the most special of situations.  MLA is more like a comfortable pair of sweats you can plop in front of the TV and eat Cheerios© in.

            Creating an MLA-styled paper is simple.  Begin by setting your margins as a strict 1” length all around your paper.  Next, set your paragraph spacing at double-spaced, and—on the left margin, type in your name, the name of your instructor, the class the paper is intended for, and the date. Make sure that all of this is double spaced.  After the date comes the title of your paper, centered in the middle of the page; I enjoy writing papers with semicolons in the title, but that’s hardly a requirement. Place a page number in the header of your document in the following format: your last name, followed by the page number.  If your computer is savvy enough to manage it, suppress this header on your first page—it’s redundant because your name is already on the left side of your paper.  After that, type your paper, making sure that you “document your source by indicating what you borrowed” (Gibaldi 142) through proper citation.  When your paper has ended, go to the next page and title it “Works Cited”—again, make sure the title is justified in the center of the page.   Then list the sources you cited in your paper, making sure that the list is alphabetized by the first name in the citation.  Remember—citing responsibly shows your academic authority!


            At times, you may want to separate your paper into different sections.  It is a simple enough procedure to do so—simply place the title of the section preceding your discussion, making sure that it is left-justified and formatted in plain type.  Make sure, though, that all the information under the title relates to the specific section: you don’t want to confuse your reader with misleading section titles.


            Many students stress over the proper way to treat quotations in MLA formatting.  For quotes less than four lines long, place the quotation marks around the quote itself, followed by the reference, in parentheses, followed by whatever punctuation is appropriate for the situation.  For example, in a paper about grammar you could quote that “[t]he use of commas cannot be learned by rule” (Truss 82), waiting till after all the information was shared to include the punctuation.  For longer quotes, however, you will want to block in this manner:

For a block quote, drop down a line and type out your quote.  Do not include quotation marks—the mere fact that you are formatting a block quote indicates to your reader that what is contained in the block quote is a quote.  Once the quote is finished, place the appropriate punctuation at the end of the passage (usually a period) and then include the citation information inside of the parentheses. (Chrisman)

Remember, it is generally considered bad form to leave a block quote—or any quote, for that matter—at the end of a paragraph.  Provide your reader with some clarifying analysis of your quote.

            Following these simple rules will help your papers seem polished and professional.  Adherence to MLA format will greatly enhance your ability to communicate academically.


Works Cited

Gibaldi, Joseph.  MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. NY: Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

Truss, Lynne.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.  NY: Gotham Books, 2003.



Standard Grading System

Numerical grades may be considered equivalent to letter grades as follows:


























Lowest passing grade.



Academic failure.
No credit earned.







Catalog Description: 
Introduces and explores African literatures from a range of regions. Pays particular attention to writings connected with the historical experiences of colonialism, anti-colonial resistance, and decolonization. Considers the operations of race, gender, nationhood, neocolonialism, and globalization within and across these writings. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
January 14, 2021 - 5:40am