Part 1 (4 credits)
After an introduction to the historical, socio-political and anthropological aspects of nineteenth-century Britain, Part 1 will focus on the British Empire, with special attention for such phenoma as slavery and colonialism, especially in West Africa and Congo. This historical and cultural introduction will be followed by an analysis of works by two late- Victorian novelists who practised adventure and travel fiction: Rider Haggard and Joseph Conrad. Their works will be analysed in relation to their cultural context, with special attention for their thematic and stylistic peculiarities, the literary genre they used and their reflection on ethnic issues. The texts under scrutiny will be three short stories by Haggard characterized by racial stereotypes and by a strong realistic approach: “Hunter Quatermain’s Story”, “Long Odds” and “Black Heart and White Heart”. These stories will be compared with “Heart of Darkness” by Conrad, whose dramatization of colonial tensions is coupled with specific early Modernist experiments. Part 1 also includes a discussion of F. F Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now", a film freely adapted from Conrad’s novella, which will be shown and commented in class, with a theoretical reflection on the process of filmic adaptation/appropriation.
Part 2 (1 credit)
This part focuses on key postcolonial concepts that have significantly influenced Anglophone culture and literature in the last fifty years and examines their relevance to an analysis of the literary texts listed in this syllabus. The following concepts will be studied: alterity, ambivalence, anti-colonialism, black consciousness, catachresis, centre/margins, colonial desire, colonialism, comprador, contrapuntal reading, cultural diversity/difference, decolonization, double colonization, essentialism, Fanonism, feminism and post-colonialism, hybridity, imperialism, mimicry, neo-colonialism, Orientalism, othering, postcolonialism, race, slavery, universalism, worlding.
Part 3 (2 credits)
The third part will start with a historical introduction to the process of decolonization of the former British colonies in Africa and the development of African literature in English. Basic notions of feminist and gender studies will be provided, followed by a short introduction to the reality of Zimbabwe and to Tsitsi Dangarembga, a Zimbabwean woman novelist. Classes will then focus on Dangarembga's novel "Nervous Conditions" (1988), exploring the novel's representation of gender inequalities, to the role of education and the influence of colonialism upon the society of postcolonial Zimbabwe.
Part 4 (3 credits)
Part Four will start with a more detailed analysis of the social and economic problems, as well as the ongoing cultural transformations in postcolonial Nigeria, especially in the last few decades. Class activities will also encourage a reflection on African diaspora, on the recent development of artistic forms and the influence they exert on the cultural and literary reality of other countries, especially Britain. This introduction will be followed by an analysis of “Dangerous Love" (1996), a novel by
Ben Okri pivoting around the formation of a young painter and the challenges met by young Nigerians in a society corrupted by their fathers. The analysis will cast light onto the fuction of art, here meant as a socio-political instrument, and the distinctive elements of the African novel in English.