Nigeria, situated on the coast of West Africa, is Africa’s most populous country.  It is also Africa’s largest oil producer, home to some of its most celebrated literary figures, and the heart of Nollywood, now the second largest film industry in the world.  This course will examine the range of Nigeria’s literary output and its relations to other forms of cultural production by studying everything from its Nobel Prize-winning authors, to the work of the young “third generation” of novelists, to the low-budget, straight-to-DVD movies of the Nollywood film industry.  Throughout the semester, we will discuss issues such as oil wealth, war, crime, corruption, religion, homosexuality, popular culture, and emigration.  We will also focus our attention on the metropolis of Lagos, a growing mega-city of 15 million, which is rapidly becoming one of the world’s preeminent fictionalized cities.  By the end of the course, students will be well acquainted with both the high and low forms of cultural production emerging from Nigeria and will have a solid understanding of the political and social issues that Nigerians grapple with on a day-to-day basis.

Course objectives:

  • To familiarize students with Nigerian culture, history, society, and politics
  • To expose students to the range of story-telling that comes out of Nigeria
  • To explore the ways in which Nigeria exemplifies the “postcolonial condition” that is also typical of many African and “third world” countries
  • To develop students’ critical thinking and communication skills through presentations, essays, and class discussion
  • To enable students to practice writing in the internet age – through blogs and online book reviews ­– where writing is public, immediate, and multi-directional
  • To cultivate independent thinkers who learn to think through “foreign” literature on their own terms and will be unafraid to continue doing so after the course ends

Required Texts:

Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart

Wole Soyinka – Death and the King’s Horseman

Chris Abani -–Graceland

Chimamanda Adichie – The Thing Around Your Neck

Chimamanda Adichie ­– Half of A Yellow Sun

Lola Shoneyin  – The Secret Lives of the Four Wives

All other reading will be made available on the course website!


Additional Required Texts for Grad Students:

Brian Larkin – Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria

Andrew Apter The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria

Full Syllabus