SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Sci-fi and Afrofuturism in the African Novel (PG)

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

The module explores literary experimentation in novels in African languages. The discussion on science fiction and Afrofuturism enables a shift in focus: a look at Africa from its (imagined) future, which also leads to a rethinking of narratives of Africa's past. While science fiction is a genre whose relevance to Africa has often been questioned, Afrophone writers have in fact written sci-fi novels in several African languages and the genre seems to be experiencing a new boom in the 21st century.

A number of these novels also contain visions of Africa's utopian or dystopian futures and often suggest ways to construct this future or, indeed, reconstruct the present in view of the future. The trend of Afrofuturism has highly important repercussions in African Philosophy, too, where, notoriously, thinkers such as John S. Mbiti (1969) have denied Africans the capacity to conceive of a "distant future".

The module presents the novel in African languages as a platform for the negotiation of African identities and a vibrant and highly adaptable medium through which African writers make their contribution to discussions concerning African politics, both local and global cultures and power relations.The case studies are drawn from literatures in Swahili, Shona, Yorùbá, and several other languages. All the texts will be available in English translation; the course has no language prerequisite.

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 one hour lecture and a one hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

The first half of the term presents the theoretical foundations for the study of the experimental genres in the Afrophone novel, especially the distinctions between particular genres and styles such as magical realism, fantasy, science fiction, utopia and allegory, relating these to the contemporary debates on Afrofuturism.

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 oral presentation (20 minutes) (40%)
  • One 2500 word essay, submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (60%)

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