South African Literature and Film, 1883 to the present

On this page


Module code


  • Level 4
  • Semester 1
  • 40 places
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • Hybrid English/Film Studies module.


Have you taken 'Postcolonial Texts', 'African Politics' or 'South African Politics'? Are you interested in colonialism, postcoloniality, political struggle, or racial and sexual difference, and how these are represented in literature and film?

South Africa has one of the oldest film industries in the world and has been the subject of important international as well as local films. The country's history inspired American filmmakers like D.W. Griffith and its cinema has been influenced by him in turn. South Africa has also produced major, internationally recognised writers such as Olive Schreiner, Nadine Gordimer, Alan Paton, Athol Fugard and J.M. Coetzee. Its literature and film deals with issues of primary importance in the local as well as global arena, such as the legacy of colonialism and capitalist exploitation; the 'New Woman'; the struggle against racism and political injustice; the effects of violent conflict; reconciliation and nation-building; homophobia and gender violence.

The module offers a wide variety of texts and films, from different perspectives and genres (including the gangster film, the farm novel, the historical epic, the magical realist film, the postmodern, etc.) and offers you the chance to see rare early films (e.g. Griffith's The Zulu's Heart [1908]).


Open to all Humanities students, and a background in English and Film Studies is not required.


Dr Nicole Devarenne


Coursework makes up 100% of the assessment, as follows:

  • written assignment (30%)
  • research essay (60%)
  • oral presentation (10%)


Texts/films to include some of the following:


  • Poetry by various poets
  • J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace
  • Athol Fugard, The Township Plays
  • Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist
  • Antjie Krog, Country of My Skull
  • Thomas Mofolo, Chaka
  • Alan Paton, Cry the Beloved Country
  • Sol Plaatje, Mhudi
  • Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm
  • Zoe Wicomb, You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town
  • Njabulo Ndebele, Fools
  • Sipho Sepamla, A Ride on the Whirlwind
  • Mongane Wally Serote, To Every Birth Its Blood
  • Marlene van Niekerk, Triomf


Please note, you will not see all the following in their entirety

  • The Zulu's Heart (1908)
  • De Voortrekkers (1916)
  • They Built a Nation (1938)
  • African Jim—Jim Comes to Jo'burg (1949)
  • Zulu (1964)
  • A World Apart (1987)
  • Mapantsula (1988)
  • Fools (1997)
  • Hijack Stories (2000)
  • Forgiveness (2004)
  • Zulu Love Letter (2005)
  • Tsotsi (2005)
  • Beauty (2009)
  • Invictus (2009)
  • The Bang Bang Club (2010)

Access the online reading list system