Spring 2023

African Literature as Philosophy

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-254  |  English, as ENGL-254


Cheikh A. Thiam (Section 01)


This course is an exploration of the ways in which African literature can be read as a philosophical engagement concerned with a critique of modern epistemology (David Diop's poems, Amadou Hampate Ba, Kaidara, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure) and a theory of being (Tsitsi Dangarembga: Nervous Conditions, Ngugi WaThiongo: Petals of Blood) leading to a political engagement with the question of the good life in a good society (NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Blitz Bazawule, The scent of Burnt Flowers and Nnedi Okarafor’s Who Fears Death). The ultimate goal of the course is to explore how works of African literature ask: How did particular ways of thinking of the world lead to the invention of Africa and how can African ontologies offer a way out of the pervasiveness of coloniality? What really does it mean to be African, a version of a more general question that has dominated the history of philosophy: what does it mean to be human? And finally, how do African epistemologies and ontologies allow for radical political outlooks enabling the realization of a propitious society for the good life of its citizens.

Students will, at the end of the course, develop a clear understanding of the relation between literature and philosophy in the African context and have a good sense of the history of African literature and philosophy, with a good command of key figures, ideas, and debate that have dominated African literature and philosophy for the past 70 years.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Thiam.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference will be given to English majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: This course is discussion-based and student-centered. Respectful consideration of one another’s perspectives, open-mindedness, and active participation are expected. Emphasis on written work, readings, group work.

BLST 254 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM BARR 105
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM BARR 105


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023