SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Realism and Magical Realism in the African Novel

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

The module examines the way reality is depicted in novels in African languages. The novel, a genre imported to Africa during colonization, became the platform for showing and questioning Western ideas and lifestyles, in a constant dialogue with African cultures. In African novels these processes take place in very different ways from African literature in European languages. This module studies the realist Afrophone novel and the ways novels challenge realist representation. The case studies include novels in Swahili, Shona, Yorùbá, and several other languages. All the texts will be available in English translation; the module has no language prerequisite.


Either Culture in Africa (155900838) or Language in Africa (155900867)

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate having acquired solid knowledge of the novelistic writing in African languages, its history, main topics, and its relationship to other traditions of African literature (Europhone writing, oral literature).
  • Demonstrate good knowledge of the theory of literary realism and forms of experimental prose, such as magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, etc.
  • Give oral presentations in conferences or similar settings produce high-quality academic articles.


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week. 

Scope and syllabus

The first half of the term presents the theoretical foundations for the study of the African novel: the nature of literary realism, its introduction to Africa and employment in the Afrophone novel, the philosophical underpinnings of literary realism, literary experimentation, magical realism and its relevance for the Afrophone novel. The second half of the term focuses on case studies: the history and development of the novel in Swahili, Yorùbá, Shona, and other languages.

Method of assessment

  • One essay (1,500 words) to be submitted day 5, week 7 (30%)
  • One essay (1,500 words) to be submitted day 5, week 1 of term 2 (40%)
  • Two 10 minute oral presentations (30%)

Suggested reading

  • Andrzejewski, B. W., S. Pilaszewicz & W. Tyloch (eds.). 1985. Literatures in African Languages. Theoretical Issues and Sample Surveys. Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna & Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bamgbose, A. 1974. The Novels of D. O. Fagunwa. Benin City (Nigeria): Ethiope Publishing Corporation.
  • Bertoncini-Zúbková, Elena, Mikhail D. Gromov, S.A.M. Khamis, Kyallo W. Wamitila. 2009 (19891). Outline of Swahili Literature. Prose Fiction and Drama. (Second edition, extensively revised and enlarged.) Leiden and Boston: E. J. Brill. (reference)
  • Chiwome, E. M. 2002 (19961). A Social History of the Shona Novel. Revised edition. Gweru: Mambo Press.
  • Garnier, Xavier. 2013. The Swahili Novel. Challenging the Idea of 'Minor Literature'. Xavier Garnier. Translated by Rémi Tchokothe Armand and Frances Kennett. Woodbridge: James Currey. (reference, selected chapters)
  • Gérard, Albert S. 1981. African Language Literatures. An Introduction to the Literary History of Sub-Saharan Africa. Harlow, Essex: Longman.
  • Kahari, George. 1997 (19901). The Rise of the Shona Novel. A Study in Development, 1890-1984. Gweru: Mambo Press.
  • Ogunsina, B. O. 1992. The Development of the Yoruba Novel 1930-1975. Ilorin: Gospel Faith Mission Press.
  • Parkinson Zamora, Louis & Wendy B. Faris (eds.). 1995. Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
  • Warnes, Christopher. 2009. Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel. Between Faith and Irreverence. Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules