SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Literatures in African languages

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, 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 1 hour lecture and one hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

This course examines at the field of literature in indigenous African languages. In considering the oral as well as the written literary traditions of Africa the course focuses upon 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 course. For both oral and written traditions core questions centre around genre, social context of production and performance, and the aesthetics of language use. The student will find many themes addressed in the examples, ranging from love lyrics to praise to religious belief, as well as the articulation of the experience of colonialism, the struggle for independence and the present social, cultural and political realities facing people in different parts of Africa.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination (70%) taken in May/June and two essays each of 3500 words (30%) to be submitted day 1, term 2 and day 1, term 3.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules