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African Literature: Conflict en Dialoog


Subject to change


The course on African literature follows literary trajectories across the Horn, East and West Africa.
As a departure point it will start off with an overview of African oral literatures with an emphasis on most prominent genres across the continent, such as praise poetry, elegiac and religious poetry; these forms will be also studied in relation to contemporary practices such as live performances or poetry competitions and to novels engaging with African languages policies (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Matigari) , haunting memory’s of the genocide (Boubakar Boris Diop, Murambi) and one of the earliest African language novels (Thomas Mofolo, Chaka) .
Special attention will be paid to the complex relation between orality and literacy, which does not only characterize the novel, but also pertains earlier manuscript traditions in African languages (e.g. in Wolof, Hausa, Fulani, Somali, Harari and Swahili) which have adapted Arabic script as a writing system. Lastly, the course will adopt a comparative perspective on genres, such as the qasida and Swahili utendi vis à vis the Chimini stensii, as well as figures or motifs which have travelled across the African continent and the Indian Ocean before they found entry into the novel (e.g. in Abdulrazak Gurnah, Paradise ; Nurruddin Farah, Links ).

Course objectives

  • Students will be provided overview of literary genres in Africa

  • They will get introduced to key features and debates of African language literatures

  • Students will acquire skills to read and interpret African language poetry

  • Special emphasis will be put on critical techniques of textual comparisons



Mode of instruction

Lectures 4 hour weekly in one block

Course Load

140 hours (5 ECTS):
26 hours of lectures and seminars
2 hours of exams
92 hours of preparation for lectures and seminars
20 hours of preparation for the exams


Final written examination (100%)

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average


There is one opportunity for a re-sit of the entire course (100%).

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.




Barber, K. I could speak until tomorrow
Finnegan, R. Oral Literature in Africa
Ricard, A. The Languages and Literatures of Africa
Sperl, T. & Shackle, C. Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa
Thiong’o, N. wa Decolonising the mind


Diop, B. Murambi
Farah, N. Links
Gurnah, A. Paradise
Mofolo, T. Chaka
Molver, L. & M. O’Connor Shaka Rising (Graphic Novel)
Thiong’o, N. wa Matigari


Will be used for reading assignments

Reading list

Will be communicated through BlackBoard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher: Annachiara Raia