OSL Seminar – Perspectives on African Literature

Organisation: Dr Astrid Van Weyenberg, Dr Ksenia Robbe and Dr Kamila Krakowska Rodrigues (Leiden University), OSL Office
Location: Leiden University, room Van Wijkplaats 2/002 (on 23/11: Eyckhof 003)
Dates: 26 Oct, 2 Nov, 16 Nov, 23 Nov, 7 Dec, 14 Dec (from 1-4 pm)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMA students; OSL members will have first access
Format: Three-hour seminars
Exams: Three short papers of 1500 words each, engaging with the readings and discussion of the two preceding weeks
Credits: 5 EC

Although political, sociological, ethnographical or anthropological perspectives from, on and about Africa are frequently examined and discussed, African artistic domains remain relatively underexposed in the Netherlands. This is remarkable, especially when taking into account that African artistic practices are booming – both at home and around the world. In this seminar we will investigate a range of African literary texts. We will organize our discussions around three thematic clusters: 1) memory and identity; 2) travel and encounter; and 3) translation and adaptation. The seminar is not meant to represent Africa as a continent as such, but aims to study African literary production from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of different academics active in the field of African literature.

Reading material

Couto, Mia. Sleepwalking Land. Trans. David Brookshaw. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2006.
All other reading material will be made available.


Students write three short papers of 1500 words each, engaging with the readings and discussion of the two preceding sessions. The purpose of the paper is to test students’ capacity to comprehend and reflect critically both on the reading material and on the seminar discussions. Students should either have one central research question that they attempt to answer or one central thesis statement that they set out to substantiate.

Students need to write their papers in English and submit them via e-mail to the respective organizer (with a CC to the OSL office). Formally, the papers need to follow in all respects the current MLA guidelines (re. footnotes, bibliography, citation, format) and they should contain the student’s name and student number on top. Papers will be checked for plagiarism. In order to receive the credits for this seminar, students need a minimum grade of 5,5 for each paper.

PART 1: Memory & Identity (organized by Ksenia Robbe)

# 1 (26/10): “Apartheid Removals, Trauma and Postmemory in Contemporary South African Plays”, Dr Ksenia Robbe, Leiden University

  • Davids, Nadia. Cissie: The Playscript. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Jephta, Amy. All Who Pass. Unpublished playscript, 2015.
  • Hirsch, Marianne. “The Generation of Postmemory.” Poetics Today 29.1 (Spring 2008): 103-128.
  • Grunebaum, Heidi. “Introduction” and Chapter 4 “Burials and Removals: Historical Erasure and Everyday Life.” Memorializing the Past: Everyday Life in South Africa After the TRC. New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers, 2011 ( 1-17; 113-147).

# 2 (2/11): “Mythology, Memory and ‘Alternative’ Histories in Rooiland”, Dr Hanneke Stuit, University of Amsterdam

  • Brouwer, Jacco. Rooiland. Three Dead Pixels. 2013. Film.
  • Steinberg, Jonny. “Crossing the Never Never Line.” The Number. One Man’s Search for Identity in the Cape Underworld and Prison Gangs. Cape Town & Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 2004. 133-156.
  • Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Excerpts.
  • Stuit, Hanneke. “The Bastardisation of History: Mythology and Transculturation in Tertius Kapp’s Rooiland.” TNTL 131.4 (2015): 339-352.
  • Optional: Kapp, Tertius. Rooiland. ‘n Drama. Kaapstad: Tafelberg, 2013.

Deadline short paper #1: 9/11 midnight (@Ksenia @OSL)

PART 2: Travel & Encounter (organized by Kamila Krakowska Rodrigues)

# 3 (16/11): “Fuzzy borders: war and (im)mobility in Mia Couto’s Sleepwalking Land”, Dr Kamila Krakowska Rodrigues, Leiden University

  • Couto, Mia. Sleepwalking Land. Trans. David Brookshaw. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2006 [1992].
  • Youngs, Tim. “Where Are We Going? Cross-Border Approaches to Travel Writing”. Perspectives on Travel Writing, ed. by Glenn Hooper and Tim Youngs, 167-180. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.
  • Krakowska, Kamila. Voyages of postcolonial nations in Estação das Chuvas and Terra Sonâmbula.” Narrating the Postcolonial Nation: Mapping Angola and Mozambique, ed. Ana Mafalda Leite, Hilary Owen, Livia Apa and Rita Chaves, 163-184. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2014 (171-184).

# 4 (23/11): “Encounters in a colonial city: literary landscapes of Lu(u)anda”, Dr Sara Brandellero, Leiden University

  • Vieira, Luandino. “Grandma Xixi”; “Hen and egg” from Luuanda. Trans. Tamara Bender. London: Heinemann, 1980 [1963].
  • Melo e Castro, Paul. Shameful things in the city: Writing and re-righting colonial urban space in José Luandino Vieira’s Luuanda. Journal of Romance Studies 14.3 (2014): 37-53.
  • Ribeiro, Margarida Calafate. E agora José, Luandino Vieira? An Interview with José Luandino Vieira. Trans. Phillip Rothwell. Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies 15/16 (2010): 27-35.

Deadline short paper #2: 30/11 midnight (@Kamiila @OSL)

PART 3: Translation & Adaptation (organized by Astrid Van Weyenberg)

# 5 (7/12): “Re-reading / Adaptations: Interweaving Sensibilities and Versing Shakespeare from Africa”, Dr Sola Adeyemi, Goldsmiths University, London

  • Femi Osofisan, Wesoo, Hamlet! Or The Resurrection of Hamlet (Re-reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet) (Lagos: Opon Ifa Acting Editions, 2012)
  • Femi Osofisan, The Muse of Anomy: Essays on Literature and the Humanities in Nigeria (Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 2016), Chapters 7 and 13
  • Femi Osofisan, The Nostalgic Drum: Essays on Literature, Drama and Culture (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc, 2001), Chapter 13
  • Astrid Van Weyenberg, The Politics of Adaptation: Contemporary African Drama and Greek Tragedy (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013), Chapter 4

# 6 (14/12): “Inhabiting (an Other’s) Language”, Dr. Paulina Aroch Fugellie, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City

  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Politics of Translation”, in Outside in the Teaching Machine. New York: Routledge, 1993 (179-200).
  • Aroch Fugellie, Paulina. “Migratory Clichés: Recognizing Nyerere’s The Capitalists of Venice”, in Murat Aydemir and Alex Rotas (eds.), Migratory Settings. Amsterdam, Thamyris/Intersecting: Place, Sex and Race 19, Rodopi, 2008 (101-117). 

Deadline short paper #3: 21/12 midnight (@Astrid @OSL)

Other information

NB: With queries about the seminars, please consult with the organizer of the respective parts:

Dr Ksenia Robbe (k.robbe[at]hum.leidenuniv.nl)
Dr Kamila Krakowska Rodrigues (k.k.krakowska.rodrigues[at]hum.leidenuniv.nl)
Dr Astrid Van Weyenberg (a.l.b.van.weyenberg[at]hum.leidenuniv.nl)
The OSL office: OSL-fgw[at]uva.nl