Essay Of African Literature Syllabus

Fall 1998

Professor: Paul Brians

Office: 339 Avery Hall (check door for notes stating where I am currently)

Phone: 332-4645 (leave voice mail message)

Office hours: MWF: 10:00-10:45, TuTh: 9:30-10:30 and most afternoons

E-mail address:

World Wide Web home page:

Study guides for this course: /~brians/anglophone/

Instructions and resources for doing the research paper:


25 Course introduction, Modern African Literature, beginning of videotape: Have You Seen Drum Recently? (88 mins.) (view first 15 minutes)

African Literature

27 Videotape: Have You Seen Drum Recently?(conclusion.)


Achebe: Things Fall Apart, Chapters 1-8

Achebe: Things Fall Apart, Chapters 9-25

8 Emecheta: The Joys of Motherhood, Chapters 1-6

10 Meet at library, sign up for research topics. Beforehand look at the list of topics  and choose a few you are interested in. Only one student will be allowed per topic, so have alternatives ready.

15 Emecheta: The Joys of Motherhood, Chapters 7-18

17 Soyinka: The Lion and the Jewel & The Trials of Brother Jero

22 Soyinka: Madmen and Specialists. Read Fugard study guide before coming to class. Videotape: Master Harold and “The Boys”(90 mins. View first 15 mins.)

24Research paper proposal and annotated bibliography due.. Fugard: Master Harold and “The Boys”(conclusion)

29 Gordimer: “The Bridegroom,” “The Gentle Art” “Six Feet of the Country.” Videotape: Nadine Gordimer: Writers Talk (46 mins.) [VHS 16662]


1Proposal for paper 1 due, on one or more of the African writers, Gordimer: “Which New Era Would That Be?” “Is There Nowhere Else Where We Can Meet?” “The Train from Rhodesia.”

Caribbean Literature

6 Lamming: In the Castle of My Skin, Chapters 1-8

Lamming: In the Castle of My Skin, Chapters 9-14

13 Paper 1 due , Derek Walcott: selected poems

16Begin reading Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses. Videotape: Derek Walcott: Pantomime(20 mins.) [VHS 14699], Derek Walcott: selected poems

20Proposal for paper no. 2 due, on Caribbean literature. Derek Walcott: selected poems

Indian Literature

22 Modern Indian Literature; Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, pp. 1-126

27 Videotape: Bhaji on the Beach (98 mins.) [VHS 17923]

29Paper no. 2 due, Bhaji on the Beach(conclusion)


3 Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, pp. 127-240, Videotape: Salman Rushdie (29 mins.)

5 Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, pp. 241-394

10Research paper due. Videotape Devi (93 mins. Beginning) [VHS 17737]

12 Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, pp. 395-547, Videotape: Devi (conclusion, 20 mins.)

17 Narayan: The Guide, Chapters 1-7

19Proposal for paper no. 3 due, on Indian Literature. , Narayan: The Guide, Chapters 8-10


1 Roy: The God of Small Things, Chapters 1-6

3Revised research paper due. Roy: The God of Small Things, Chapters 7-21

8 Student presentations


9 Student presentations

16Paper no. 3 due, all make-up papers due

Paul Brians’ Policies

Fall 1998


If I am not in, the phone may be answered by the automated voice mailbox service. Please leave a message including your name and phone number. If I do not answer the phone I may well still be in the building). I will usually leave a note on my door stating my whereabouts. The fact that you cannot reach me directly by phone does not mean I am unavailable. Come by and see. If you don’t find me in person, please leave a note stuck to my office door. I am happy to see people outside of regular office hours when I can.

Study Questions:

Because this course covers a wide variety of material, your learning cannot be adequately reflected solely by the essays you will write on selected topics. In addition, this is primarily a discussion class; and discussions go better when everyone has read and thought about the material ahead of time. For each of the reading assignments, you are provided with a series of study questions which you are expected to use in doing your reading outside of class. Access the study guides on the Web at < /~brians/anglophone/ > and print them out. Some contain valuable hyperlinks, so you will want to spend some time with them online. You must write out and turn in at the beginning of classes 50-100 words of notes dealing with these questions. You need not answer every question, but you should choose thoughtfully the topics you wish to discuss in class, and be prepared to talk about any of the questions during class time. If you wish to make a copy of your notes to refer to during class discussion (a good idea) you may do so. On days when we are viewing a videotape or film, you will be asked to do some writing about what you have seen, and this writing will count as that day’s notes. Altogether the notes will make up 30% of your final grade.

If you have to be absent for an excusable reason (illness, family emergency, etc.) you can see me about making up your notes, but no more than three times during the semester. Make-ups must consist of answers to all the study questions for that assignment. If you are ill for such an extended period that you must miss many classes, you should drop the course, or better, cancel your enrollment (cancellation will avoid any adverse mark on your transcript and result in a refund of some or all of your tuition money). Because the study question assignments are the primary measure of your preparedness and participation, you must attend the entire class on the day you hand notes in in order to receive credit for them. Do not ask someone else to hand in notes for you: this is cheating and will result in an “F” for the course. Anyone caught handing in notes for anyone else will receive a 0 for that day’s assignment.


For this course you will be required to write three brief papers outside of class, of a minimum 600 words in length. Minimum paper lengths are so extremely short in this class that anyone desiring a high grade would be advised to write a somewhat longer one. Any paper shorter than the minimum assigned will receive an F as an incomplete assignment. Except for meeting the very low minimum number of pages, don’t concentrate on length, but try to make your papers as detailed, well-organized, and interesting as possible. All papers must be typed or else printed out on a computer. (If you use a typing service, please proofread its work carefully; you are responsible for all errors). These papers are not necessarily research papers, and it is possible to receive an A on a paper without doing research for them, although good papers incorporating good library work will normally receive higher grades.

You should choose a topic you are particularly interested in, not try to guess what I want you to write. When I can learn something new from a paper, I am pleased. Before each paper is due, you will turn in a proposal briefly describing which work or works you intend to write about and how you intend to write about them. I will then give you advice on how to proceed. I am also happy to look over rough drafts and answer questions about proposed topics.

For more details on how to write papers for this class, see the page entitled “Helpful Hints for Writing Class Papers“. Please also check out my site “Common Errors in English“.

Papers are due in class, at the beginning of the hour (not slipped under my door during it or later). Do not cut class to finish papers. They will not be accepted. Papers may always be handed in before the due date if you wish. There is no midterm or final examination in this class.

The following elements are taken into consideration when I grade your papers: 1) You must convince me that you have read and understood the book or story. 2) You must have something interesting to say about it. 3) Originality counts–;easy, common topics tend to earn lower grades than difficult ones done well. 4) Significant writing (spelling, punctuation, usage) errors will be marked on each paper before it is returned to you. If there are more than a few you must identify the errors and correct them (by hand, on the same paper, without retyping it) and hand the paper back in before a grade will be recorded for you. 5) I look for unified essays on a well-defined topic with a clear title and coherent structure. 6) I expect you to support your arguments with references to the text, often including quotations appropriately introduced and analyzed (but quote only to make points about the material quoted, not simply for its own sake). 7) You must do more than merely summarize the plot of the works you have read.

Late Papers:

If you think you have a valid excuse (medical, etc.) for not getting a paper in on time, let me know in advance (phone) if you can. Choosing to work on other classes rather than this one is never an acceptable excuse for handing in a paper late. The syllabus provides ample time to work ahead on assignments so that they should not conflict with work in other courses. Because of my revision policy (see below), it almost always makes more sense to hand in even a poorly-done, rushed paper than none at all. Papers handed in late with no excuse will not receive a passing grade. To pass the course you must hand in all assigned papers.

Paper revision

You may not revise up a paper which you have failed to hand in. However, if you do hand in a paper and are dissatisfied with your grade, after consulting with me, you may revise the paper and try for a higher grade.


I encourage you to come and see me about any aspect of the course during my office hours or by making an appointment. Whenever you do not understand any mark or comment on a paper, please ask about it.


Plagiarism is: 1) submitting someone else’s work as your own, 2) copying something from another source without putting it in quotation marks or citing a source (note: you must do both), 3) using an idea from a source without citing the source, even when you do not use the exact words of the source. Any time you use a book, article, or reference tool to get information or ideas which you use in a paper, you must cite it by providing a note stating where you got the information or idea, using MLA parenthetical annotation. No footnotes are used in papers for this class. You do not need to cite material from classroom lectures or discussions. If you are not certain whether you need to cite a source, check with me in advance. See “Helpful Hints” and Barnet (pp. 73-86) for details on how to cite sources. Duplicating someone else’s notes to answer study questions is also a form of plagiarism. Anyone caught plagiarizing will receive an “F” for the entire course (not just the paper concerned) and be reported to Student Affairs. If you feel you have been unjustly accused of plagiarism, you may appeal to me; and if dissatisfied, to the departmental chair.

Official English Department Notice:

The Department of English expects students in this course to use the WSU library buildings and materials in a responsible manner. Injuring, defacing, concealing, or stealing books or periodicals; vandalizing library property; and interfering with the work of other users indicate lack of respect for the educational process and for the rights of others in the University community. Violations are misdemeanors under the Revised Code of Washington 27.122.330.


If you have a speech, hearing, or vision disability, or have any kind of learning disorder, please talk to me at the beginning of the course so that we can arrange to accommodate you and provide any special assistance you may need. People needing help with paper writing should go to the Writing Center on the fourth floor of Avery Hall. I will also be glad to help with writing problems.

Grading Policy:

To pass the course you must complete all papers and hand in enough study question assignments to receive a passing grade for that part of the course.

There are 100 points possible in the course. For each daily study question assignment you will receive 1 point, graded on a pass-fail basis, 30 points in all. Anyone getting fewer than 20 points for study questions will fail the class, regardless of grades on papers.

Paper Grades:


Each paper is worth 10 points except for the research paper, for which the first draft is worth 10 points and the revised version 20. The oral report is also worth 10 points, so altogether your individual research accounts for 30% of your grade for the class.

For a 10-point paper, 9.5 or above=A, 9.0-9.4=A, 8.8-8.9=B+, 8.3-8.7=B, 8.0-8.2=B-, 7.8-7.9=C+, 7.3-7.7=C, 7.0-7.2=C, 6.5-6.9=D, anything below 6.5=F. Double these numbers to get the appropriate scale for a 20-point assignment. Multiply them by 10 to calculate your grade for the entire course.


A      Topics are challenging, often original; papers are well organized, filled with detail, and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the topic. Examples are chosen from several portions of the work. Opinion papers are carefully argued, with detailed attention being paid to opposing arguments and evidence. Papers receiving an “A” are usually somewhat longer than the minimum assigned, typically a page or so longer, though this all depends on the compactness of your writing style–;a paper which is long and diffuse does not result in a higher grade and a very compact, exceptionally well-written paper will occasionally receive an “A.” The writing should be exceptionally clear and generally free of mechanical errors. An “A” is given for exceptional, outstanding work.


B      Topics are acceptable, papers well organized, containing some supporting detail, and demonstrate an above-average knowledge of the topic. Examples are chosen from several portions of the work. Papers are at least the minimum length assigned. Opinion papers are carefully argued, with some attention being paid to opposing argument and evidence. Writing is above average, containing only occasional mechanical errors. A “B” is given for above-average work.


C      Topics are acceptable, but simple. Papers poorly organized, containing inadequate detail, demonstrating only partial knowledge of the topic (focusing only on one short passage from a work or some minor aspect of it). Papers are at least the minimum length assigned. Opinion papers contain unsupported assertions and ignore opposing arguments and evidence. Writing is average or below, and mechanical errors are numerous. Paper does not appear to have been proofread carefully. A “C” is given for average work.


D      Inappropriately chosen topic does not demonstrate more than a minimal comprehension of the topic. `Papers are at least the minimum length assigned. Opinion papers contain unsupported assertions and ignore opposing arguments and evidence. Writing is poor, filled with mechanical errors. Paper does not appear to have been proofread. A “D” is given for barely acceptable work.


F      Paper is shorter than the minimum length required. Topic is unacceptable because it does not cover more than an incidental (or unassigned) portion of the work or does not reveal a satisfactory level of knowledge . Generalizations are unsupported with evidence and opinion papers contain unsupported assertions and ignore opposing arguments and evidence. Writing is not of acceptable college-level quality. Paper does not appear to have been proofread. An “F” is given for unsatisfactory work.

World Literature in English of India, Africa, and the Caribbean

Assignments, policies and course texts will vary


English is part of Africa’s colonial inheritance; it’s currently an official language in 23 African countries.  Since the 1950s, when those African countries began regaining their independence, a corpus of postcolonial writing in English has developed, particularly in Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana (to this list we can add South Africa, whose colonial and postcolonial history is rather different).  This body of literature is frequently concerned with questions about what it means to be a colonized people; about what it means to be a postcolonial people; about the relationship between the individual person and colonial, postcolonial or even global power.  In this course we will read six contemporary novels from three countries (Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa) and discuss the issues they raise about humanity in the 21st century. 

Although I will attempt to sketch the postcolonial African literary canon for you, this course is not intended to be a comprehensive introduction to African literature.  None of the novels we are reading was published before 2000.  On the other hand, then, this course will function as a good introduction to contemporary issues in African literature; by the end of the course you will have a rudimentary understanding of those issues and the way they play out in various contemporary contexts.   

The assignments in this course are designed to reflect the fact that this is not a survey course.  We are interested in quite specific questions about power and the subject of power; so the assignments ask you to consider, in depth, quite specific questions.  By the time you complete your final essay, you will have spent some considerable time working on a particular problem, refining your research, establishing your theoretical grounding and preparing your arguments.  


All of these novels are available in the University Bookstore.

From Nigeria:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

Chris Abani, Graceland

From South Africa:

J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace

Phasanwe Mpe Welcome to Our Hillbrow

From Zimbabwe:

Brian Chikwava, Harare North

Noviolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names


Week 1            i Introduction to the course and to Nigeria

Week 2            i.  Purple Hibiscus

                        ii. Nigerian and postcolonial national literatures

Week 3            i. Purple Hibiscus

                        ii. Fela Kuti and modern African music

Week 4            i.  Graceland

                        ii. Graceland

Week               i Graceland

                        ii Intro to South Africa and South African literature in English. 

                        Film:  Tsotsi part 1

Week 6            i. Welcome to Our Hillbrow

                        ii. Welcome to Our Hillbrow

Week 7            i. NO CLASS, reading for midterm test released. 

                        ii MIDTERM TEST

Week 8            i Disgrace

                        ii Film: Tsotsi  part 2

Week 9            i Disgrace

                        ii Intro to Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean literature in English

Week 10          i We Need New Names

                        ii Migration and exile

Week 11          i We Need New Names

                        ii Harare North

Week 12          i Harare North

                        ii Review

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