From colonial diaries to activist autobiographies and child soldier memoirs, life writing has played an outsize role in constructing and exporting images of the African continent. And yet, the memoir genre remains understudied in many discussions of African literature. This seminar examines life writing by native Africans as well as settlers and visitors. Their works are grouped throughout the syllabus into five themes—colonialism, childhood, abduction, activism, and homecoming—that together probe the tensions among competing representations of a continent that is often spoken of as a country. Primary readings include life writing by David Livingstone, Isak Dinesen, Alexandra Fuller, Zoë Wicomb, Binyavanga Wainaina, Olaudah Equiano, Ishmael Beah, Juliane Okot Bitek, Nelson Mandela, Trevor Noah, Saidiya Hartman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chris Abani, and Teju Cole. Secondary readings include a range of theoretical writings by early anticolonial intellectuals and contemporary scholars. In addition to traditional academic writing, students also have the opportunity to experiment with their own life writing about their encounters with Africa and/or its representations.
Also AFST 448