Modern Literature: African Coming-of-Age Narratives

African Coming-of-Age Narratives
English 4140/7140
Christopher Okonkwo
Course Description

If dated from the slave autobiographies, one could argue that life-writing—factual, mediated, and/or fictional—has had a centuries’ old history in Black Atlantic literary imagination. In this course, however, our focus is on representative, post-World War II coming-of-age narratives by continental African authors. As some scholars have suggested, the African bildungsroman, when juxtaposed against its German, French, and English antecedents and contemporaries, instantiates the problematic of generic conformity and deviance. A subunit of modern and postcolonial African literature, the African bildungsroman sometimes comports with the “classical” European model, especially the latter’s privileging of personal reading and mentorship. In other cases, though, it “writes back” to and unravels the problems raised by the European model’s subordination of community to youth and individualism/individual growth. Our goal in this class will be to examine the above issues toward close readings of select African works in their own right. Course requirements will include a midterm examination, presentation, and two short essays.