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ENGL3069 Love and Death in Africa's Cities

Module Overview

The stereotype of Africa as a predominantly ‘natural’ space ignores the existence of large and cosmopolitan urban environments on the continent. Yet today, the sprawling conurbations of Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg (as well as Africa’s other towns and cities) are the sites of vibrant and diverse cultural and literary productions. This module examines how literary and cultural texts from and about Africa’s cities imagine and embody love and death. In doing so, they ask and answer complex questions related to citizenship and survival in the modern world.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce you to a range of texts set and/or produced in Africa’s cities; • allow you to practice and fine-tune your reading skills; • help you to develop confidence in analysing complex literary forms and techniques, and • encourage you to reflect on multiple kinds of cultural production and circulation.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the range and complexity of Africa’s city texts;
  • the social contexts and historical backgrounds of the primary texts on the module;
  • a selection of African urban histories and the discursive formations they have generated, and
  • how notions of ‘Africa’ may be related to notions of ‘modernity’.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • construct original arguments related to the thinking and imagination of others;
  • analyse fictional methods of constructing social space;
  • compare contemporary urban texts and contexts; and
  • understand key debates related to African city lives and city writings.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • formulate reasoned arguments and opinions;
  • deploy a clear and legible writing style;
  • engage in cross-cultural dialogue, and
  • respond with understanding and tact to non-European cultural standpoints.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:write confidently and clearly in response to complex texts and debates;
  • research unfamiliar texts and contexts;
  • deliver brief oral presentations and participate in spoken academic discussions with assurance and skill; and
  • develop reading strategies appropriate to Africa’s texts and genres.


The module will introduce you to a range of canonical and popular narrative texts and genres related to cities in all the regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Classroom discussions of how these literary and filmic texts frame and construct the concepts of love and death will be organised around five key areas of literary and theoretical debate, to do with space, modernity, nation, gender and resistance.

Special Features

You may be offered an opportunity to combine academic learning with an optional exercise in international outreach, by donating copies of your used textbooks to a school in Africa at the end of the semester and receiving feedback on local reading cultures in return. A version of such exchange has been rehearsed in ENGL 2046 (‘Images of Africa in Literature and Culture’), where it has been linked to Careers Services’ Graduate Passport scheme. It provided participants an opportunity to reflect on what it might mean to be a ‘global citizen’ – one of Southampton’s graduate attributes, relevant for a range of careers including journalism, teaching and the NGO sector.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Lectures • Seminars involving group work, plenary debate, short written exercises and individual presentations • Private study (including library research accessing and evaluating appropriate online resources) • Guidance and feedback sessions on assignments • Essay writing This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Mpe, Pashwane (2001). Welcome to our Hillbrow. 

Mtobwa, Ben (1971). Dar es Salaam by Night. 

Vera, Yvonne (1998). Butterfly Burning. 

Lefebvre, Henry (1996). Writings on Cities. 

wa Ngugi, Mukoma (2009). Nairobi Heat. 

Geschiere, Peter, et al (eds) (2008). Modernity in Africa. 

Robinson, Jenny (2006). Ordinary Cities. 

Banda-Aaku, Ellen (2011). Patchwork. 

Aidoo, Ama Ata (1991). Changes: A Love Story. 

Appiah, Anthony (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. 

Taylor, Charles (2004). Modern Social Imaginaries. 

Barber, Karin (2007). The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics. 

Newell, Stephanie (ed) (2002). Readings in African Popular Fiction. 

Nuttall, Sarah (2009). Entanglement. 

Paton, Alan (1948). Cry Beloved Country. 

Mbembe, Achille (2001). On the Postcolony. 

Abani, Chris (2004). Graceland. 

Mabanckou, Alain (2003). African Psycho. 

Primorac, Ranka (ed) (2010). African City Textualities. 

Soyinka, Wole (1972). The Interpreters. 


Assessment Strategy

The first essay will ask you to write about a specific aspect of the narrative construction of space in a single novel on the module. The second essay will be on a topic asking you to compare two novels on the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 30%
Essay  (2500 words) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 70%
Essay  (1500 words) 30%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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