English R1A

Reading and Composition: Myth, Politics, and the African Novel

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2021 Dunsker, Leo
MWF 10-11 72 Evans

Book List

Achebe, Chinua: Arrow of God; Armah, Ayi Kwei: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born; Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o: Devil on the Cross; Tutuola, Amos: The Palm-Wine Drinkard

Other Readings and Media

Further primary and secondary texts will be uploaded to bCourses.


This course focuses on African novels written during the latter half of the twentieth century. These works emerge from a variety of national contexts, and all respond to the process of decolonization taking place during this period. Many African writers adopted the form of the European novel in order to explore questions of political, economic, and cultural hegemony, but how and why did they deploy this alien form to contain, narrate, and represent native experience? and why did they so often choose to do so in the very language of empire itself? The search for answers to these and other questions led African writers to consider the modern European novel against the backdrop of older indigenous narrative forms – mostly myth and folktale – with some rejecting the latter for the former but more pursuing a reconciliation between these two. But then what might it mean that the U.S. taxpayer financed much of the world’s engagement with the literature, modern and mythic, of the African continent?

This course is dedicated ultimately to the cultivation of students’ writing and thinking skills, and so a great deal of time will be devoted to practicing the elementary techniques of summary, synthesis of ideas, and logical argument. Students will complete regular shorter papers in which they will explore the texts and themes of the course, which will become the basis in turn for peer review exercises and written reflections on the process of writing and revision.

Back to Semester List