The African Novel module (EN31026)

Studying writing from Africa with a focus on novels and novelists

On this page


Module code


This module will introduce you to some of the most important and influential African novelists and develop your ability to describe the formal characteristics of novels, with a focus on genre.

We read writers from across the continent and from different literary traditions, including the Islamic tradition. Countries represented include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria, Sudan, Algeria, and Kenya. Genres studied range from realist modes of fiction (eg: historical and war novels) to speculative modes (eg: folk tale, science fiction / weird fiction).

What you will learn

In this module you will:

  • build on your knowledge of African writers and contexts
  • gain an understanding of the wealth and variety of African imaginative and literary practice through a focus on the novel form
  • explore the range of genres and modes in which some of the major African novels have been written
  • acquire a perspective on what is distinctive about African novels and novelists
  • familiarise yourself with a range of African cultural, literary, social and historical/political contexts and understand how they impact the concerns explored in African novels
  • gain an appreciation of cultural difference through exposure to a variety of viewpoints and texts

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • describe some of the major achievements of African novelists
  • appreciate Africa’s contribution to world literature (predominantly, but not exclusively, in English)
  • describe the formal properties of novels from a variety of genres and modes with a more developed vocabulary

Assignments / assessment

  • presentation (10%)
  • practical criticism 1,500 words (30%)
  • research essay 3,500 words (60%)

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • weekly lecture (1 hour)
  • weekly seminar (2 hours)

Example schedule of weekly topics to be studied:

Week Topic
1 Epic 
Sol Plaatje, Mhudi (1930) – South Africa
2 Folk Tale
Amos Tutuola, The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952) – Nigeria
3 The Modernist Novel
Assia Djebar, Children of the New World (1962) – Algeria. English translation from French published in 2005.
4 The Political Novel (1)
Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God (1964) – Nigeria
5 The Political Novel (2)
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, A Grain of Wheat (1967) – Kenya
6 Gothic 
Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North (1966) – Sudan. English translation from Arabic published in 1969.
7 Utopia
Bessie Head, When Rain Clouds Gather (1968) – Botswana
8 Allegory
J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) – South Africa
9 The Psychoanalytic Novel
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (1988) – Zimbabwe
10 The Historical/ War Novel
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) – Nigeria
11 Speculative Fiction
Lauren Beukes, Moxyland (2008) – South Africa


This module is available on following courses: