SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

African language literatures (oral and written)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year


Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate . . . 

  1. a knowledge of the major genres and forms of oral and written literature in a number of major African languages
  2. familiarity with the critical discourse and theoretical debates surrounding orality and literacy in the African context
  3. an ability to compare genres, themes and content across a number of African literatures
  4. a familiarity with the contextualisation of cultural forms in social, political and economic contexts
  5. an experience of guided study of a particular expressive cultural form in an African language


Total of 22 weeks teaching consisting of a one-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

This module discusses literature in indigenous African languages. This literature is both oral and written and the module covers issues relating to performance and context, the role of literary expression in society, voice and power, the notions of tradition and innovation, memorization and form in literature.

Oral literature, by its very nature, is performed literature, which is reflected in the use of video and audio material in some of the lectures in the module. Key questions of orality – who is performing, to whom, and with what intent – regularly recur, while issues of genre are equally important for oral and for African written literary traditions. The student will find many themes addressed in the examples, ranging from love lyrics, praise verbal art, expression of religious feeling to articulation of the experience of colonialism, the struggle for independence and the present political realities facing people in different parts of Africa.

Method of assessment

One written examination (70%) taken in May/June; one essay (15%) to be submitted on day 1, term 2; and one essay (15%) to be submitted on day 1, term 3.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules