The University of Southampton

ENGL2046 Images of Africa in Literature and Culture

Module Overview

African literatures raise important questions about the meaning of African culture, about social and political struggles for national independence, and the future of African societies in the aftermath of European colonialism. Writers such as Chinua Achebe, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o have made important challenges to European literary representations of Africa, such as that of Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness, and they have questioned the limitations of national independence in the face of neo-colonialism, civil war, and repressive military dictatorships. What is more, African writers have pushed the boundaries of literary form and language through experiments with storytelling, narration and voice. In so doing, they have pointed to what Edward Said calls the worldliness of literary reading.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to a range of literary and cultural texts from Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana • enable you to develop a critical vocabulary for analysing the form and cultural contexts of African literary texts • encourage you to explore the social, historical and political significance of linguistic and narrative strategies in African literature • address the (gendered) meanings that might be ascribed to the notion of ‘resistance' in different African contexts • consider how formal, stylistic and conceptual developments in African literature relate to the history of decolonisation and national independence struggles in the postcolonial world • cultivate skills and values designed to turn you into a politically and socially aware global citizen of the future

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • a range of African literary and cultural texts
  • different linguistic, generic and narrative techniques employed in African literary texts
  • critical debates in African literary studies
  • the relationship between literature, empire and decolonisation
  • the cultural and political assumptions which shape literary interpretation
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • deliver oral presentations in a concise and clear manner
  • write with sensitivity about cultural and social experiences which may be different to your own
  • discuss complex issues in a clear and sophisticated way that is sensitive to the views of others
  • research a problem, both as an individual and as part of a group, synthesize different types of information, and discuss it in depth
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • work practically with others in a group to explore appropriate ways of reading African literary texts
  • conduct independent research using literary research tools and resources available via the library and the internet
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse African literary texts critically and with attention to the historical and cultural context in which they were written
  • reflect on how the formal and stylistic techniques of ‘English literature’ have been challenged by African writing
  • question the cultural and political assumptions which shape literary interpretation
  • develop a position in relation to recent debates in postcolonial literary criticism


This module aims to introduce you to the social, political and aesthetic dimensions of a range of literary and cultural representations of Africa before and after the colonial period. The module will enable you to identify how formal, stylistic and conceptual developments in African literature relate to the history of decolonisation and national independence struggles in the postcolonial world. With reference to the critical thought of Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembe, and Gayatri Spivak, the module will invite you to examine how a violent system of colonialism was represented in the fiction of Joseph Conrad, Rider Haggard and Olive Schreiner, and how writers such as Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, J.M. Coetzee, Tsistsi Dangarembga and filmmakers such as Gillo Pontecorvo have subsequently developed aesthetic and narrative strategies that contest this representation.

Special Features

This module is an introduction to Images of Africa in Literature and Culture, and as such assumes no prior knowledge of the texts, contexts or issues that we will be discussing in the module. For this reason the module provides different forms of learning and assessment which will allow you to ask questions, to explore critical problems that you encounter in your reading of particular texts, and to have the opportunity to develop and improve your work. The reading journal provides a creative space for you to engage with the text, to experiment with different terms and concepts, and to reflect self-consciously on how each text relates to critical debates in African literature. Finally, using the combination of a mid-term essay plan and essay provides a structure for you to get critical feedback on your work and to improve your final grade. This combination of a reading journal and an essay is used to broaden your portfolio of written and spoken communication skills, to conform to the established assessment policy of the School, and to enable you to synthesise the module and show an achieved understanding of the issues.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures • tutor-led seminar discussion • audio-visual presentation (e.g. videos or audio recordings of readings) Learning activities include • preparing and delivering presentations • leading or actively participating in small-group discussions • individual internet and library research Innovative or special features of this module • use of Blackboard • readings/ visiting lecturers • reading journal

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

John McLeod (1999). Beginning Postcolonialism. 

Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart. 

Tstiti Dangarembga. Nervous Conditions. 

Robert Young (2001). Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. 

Gillo Pontecorvo (dir) The Battle of Algiers. Film

H. Rider Haggard. She. 

J.M. Coetzee. Disgrace. 

Robert Young (1999). White Mythologies. 

Ayi Kwei Armah. The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. 

Bill Ashcroft et al (1987). The Empire Writes Back. 

Robert Young (2003). Postcolonialism: A Short Introduction. 

Alex La Guma. In the Fog of the Season’s End. 

Bill Ashcroft et al (2001). Key Concepts in Postcolonial Studies. 

Olive Schreiner. The Story of an African Farm. 

Bill Ashcroft et al (1995). The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (Read the essays by Ngugi and Brathwaite in part IX: ‘Language’). 

Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness. 

Ngugi wa Thiong’o. A Grain of Wheat. 

Leela Gandhi (1998). Postcolonial Theory. 

Michael Wayne (2002). Political Film. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • Peer feedback on learning journals • Mid-term group feedback on strategies for improving specific teaching methods and learning activities • Individual feedback on essay plans and drafts


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Essay  (2000 words) 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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