Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching African Literature and Politics

This semester I am teaching a new course, "African Literature and Politics," which I designed some months ago. It explores the intersection between Literature and Politics in Africa in the 50s and 60s, a very important period in African history.

Word War II had just ended, and the winds of nationalism were blowing across Africa. The struggle for independence gained momentum in the 50s, and the 60s, known as Africa's Independence Decade, saw most African countries gain independence.

The course involves studying writings--both political and literary--which capture the spirit of the times and the aspirations of the Africans. These include political speeches and essays by such writers as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, and Peter Abrahams, as well as works of fiction by Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe, and Sembene Ousmane.

During the 60s, more writers appeared, in both the political and literary arenas, such as Julius Nyerere, Wole Soyinka, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who focus on the realities and challenges of independence.

The list of readings includes writers from the African Diaspora, such as Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon. We have already discussed Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism. We are now reading A Wreath for Udomo, by Peter Abrahams.

It is interesting to be discussing Peter Abrahams in this course, after teaching his Mine Boy in a different course--South African Literature. One realizes that a new course is truly a new context, which affords the opportunity to see a writer or a text in a new light.

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