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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Fictions of History

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year



Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Please note that this course will be renamed to 'Fictions of History' shortly.

At the end of the course, a student should be able to:

  • show an advanced level of understanding of literary and critical representations of history in Africa and the diaspora
  • undertake independent research and complete it successfully
  • show advanced level of expression of his/her views both orally and in written form


Total of 22 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

This course looks at representations of history in Africa and the diaspora. Our focus will be on novels from Africa and the Caribbean, but we will also look at questions of auto/biography (The History of Mary Prince; Head Above Water; Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight) and the story of a runaway slave in the American South (Property). Throughout the course we are examining the intersection of history and literature to discuss the ways in which they work as genres and as disciplines. What are the implications of reading a novel for its historical content or accuracy? How do different writers reflect on questions of authorship?

This is a seminar, requiring a high level of participation, motivation, and independent thinking! Attendance at seminars is compulsory. Short presentations will be allocated on key critical readings; two major presentations will also be required during the year.

Method of assessment

A final written examination in May/June (50%); one essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on the last day of term 1 (10%); one essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on the last day of term 2 (30%); presentations (full details to be given by the course convenor) (10%).

Suggested reading

The reading list for this course will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the course.