BA English Literature and American Studies

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
An Introduction to Contemporary African Literature.

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL31531
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


An introduction to contemporary African Literature focused on a range of authors, including Chibundu Onuzo, Maaza Mengiste, Nadifa Mohamed and Akwaeke Emeze. In reading their most recent novels, studying the context into which they are publishing and assessing critical responses to their work, students will explore the publishing landscape (on the Continent and abroad), key themes, and critical reception of contemporary African writing. Discussion will include antecedents, developments in African literature in the last ten years, areas of thematic focus as they related to national social and cultural issues and the impact of their work on an international stage. Key topics will include conceptions of ‘home’, experiences of diaspora, the writing of conflict, and the construction of selfhood.


    The aims of this course are:
    - to introduce students to key texts and issues in contemporary African literature;
    - to introduce students to the analysis of novels of diaspora; 
    - to consider the formal and thematic innovations made by African writers over the last decade;
    - to analyse the ways in which these contemporary African texts interact with their cultural and historical contexts;
    - to consider issues like gender, sexuality, social inequality and politics as they affect the areas of thematic focus for these writers;
- to engage with selected critical writings in response to the two writers, specifically including new platforms (social media: Instagram book bloggers, new African literary platforms)
- to develop skills of critical thought, speech, and writing;
- to develop innovation in creative practice through a focused engagement with the writing and the critical reception of the selected contemporary texts.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- demonstrate a critical understanding of how cultural context and evolving reader expectations influence criticism of contemporary African literature;
- develop an appreciation for the context of contemporary African publishing (the interplay between gatekeepers, readers and writers) and its continued trajectory
- demonstrate an understanding of the challenges and complexities of engagement across culture and language through literature.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
•    Do close analyses of a range of contemporary literary texts, attending to technical questions of genre, form and language.
•    Demonstrate an ability to make use of relevant theoretical, literary critical and political material in their analysis of the chosen texts.
•    Reflect critically on literary and theoretical material associated or concerned with contemporary African literature and the contemporary publishing scene.
•    Make reasoned, substantiated arguments for a particular point of view.
•    Work with a developed critical and conceptual vocabulary appropriate to the subject matter and level of the module.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
•    Access and make use of relevant library and online resources (including databases such as the MLA) to find critical and contextual material of an appropriate scholarly quality, for the purposes of class discussion and assessment.
•    Plan and conduct independent research.
•    Demonstrate more effective time-management and forward planning skills.
•    Follow referencing and style guidelines in order to present their work in a professional and scholarly manner.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:
•    Write lucid prose in which they communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively.
•    Work independently, showing self-motivation, forward planning and personal/professional organisation.
•    Work effectively with others – e.g. in seminar discussions – developing interpersonal skills of listening, discussion and negotiation.
•    Demonstrate enhanced time-management skills in the preparation and delivery of assessment tasks.
•    Plan and implement a research project – the coursework essay.

Employability skills

In encouraging them to do independent research and develop novel and well-substantiated lines of argument in work that is correctly presented and referenced, the module will also serve as excellent preparation for postgraduate study in the arts and humanities field, or for other forms of research in the arts/media realm.
This module will help students to develop skills such as clear written and verbal communication; effective time-management; independent thinking and working; self-motivation; as well as skills of argument, analysis and reasoning; and the ability to work with and alongside their peers. In broadening their knowledge of modern and contemporary literary history and practice, the module will also be useful preparation for employment in the cultural and creative industries, e.g. publishing or the media.

Assessment methods


Review of a novel or literary event  30%
Coursework Essay  70%


Feedback methods

Feedback Method  Formative or Summative
Numerical grade and written comments on essay within 15 working days. Summative 
One on one meeting in office 1 week after presentation. Formative and Summative 
Oral/written feedback to group. Formative and Summative 


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

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