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African Literature: Overview to African Literatures


Admission requirements

‘N.B. Course descriptions are subject to change’


The course on African literature follows literary trajectories across the continent.

As a departure point it will start off with current debates on the language of African literature, its existence as a discipline (does African literature exist?) and the danger and challenges of a single stereotyped image of Africa, inspired by afropolitanism considerations as it was initiated by Achille Mbembe. Furthermore, in order to provide an overview of African oral literatures, the course will adopt a comparative perspective on genres with a main focus on praise poetry from South African and West Africa; these forms will be also studied in relation to contemporary practices such as live performances or poetry competitions.

The course includes also a selection of required novels, originally composed in African languages ( Matigari by Ngugi wa Thiong’o ; Ògbójú Ọdẹ nínú Igbó Irúnmalẹ̀, Forest of a Thousand Daemons, by Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa) , together with a selection of two further novels engaging with haunting memories of the genocide and civil war (Boubakar Boris Diop, Murambi ; Nuruddin Farah, Links) . Lastly, the role and voice played in politics by poets and writers such as Abdilatif Abdalla and Wole Soyinka will be investigated through a re-exploration of their own poetics and language. Postcolonial voices and influences on African philosophy and literature from North Africa will be also included through the reading of milestones (Black skin, white masks / Peau noir, masques blanc by Franz Fanon) and short stories focused on Muslim Algerians women (Women of Algiers in their apartment by Assia Djebar).

Course objectives

  • Recognise different existing genres in Africa;

  • Comprehend the key features and debates on African-language literatures;

  • Interpret and describe African poetry and novels;

  • Appraise textual comparisons on a basis of intertextual critical techniques;

  • Design and write a book review.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Take home-exam 25%

  • Oral presentation 5%

  • Final exam 70 %


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.

Reading list

The following list is indicative. Please consult the syllabus for more detailed information.

Barber, K. & Furniss, G. (1997). African-Language Writing.
Eillen, J. (1992). African novels and the questions of orality.
Finnegan, R. (2012) 1976. Oral Literature in Africa.
Ricard, A. (2004). The Languages and Literatures of Africa.

Novels and Poetry

Abdalla, A. Sauti ya dhiki (The Voice of Agony).
Condé, M. Segou.
Diop, B. Murambi. Le livre des ossessments.
Djebar, A. Women of Algiers in their apartment.
Fagunwa, D. O. Ògbójú Ọdẹ nínú Igbó Irúnmalẹ̀ (Forest of a Thousand Daemons).
Faraax, M. J. Cawl Aqoondarro waa u Nacab Jacayl (Ignorance is the Enemy of Love).
Farah, N. Links.
Mda, Z. Little Suns.
Soyinka, W. A Shuttle in the crypt.
Tadjo, V. L’Ombre d’Imana.
Thiong’o, N. wa Matigari.


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 substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Reuvensplaats