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Masters Electives 2021

The following electives are offered within each of the streams of inquiry:

Black Literary and Intellectual Traditions

  1. ELL5074F Current Thought in Black African Literature: Dr Christopher Ouma
  2. ELL5066F Gender and Literature: African Feminist Thought: A/Prof Barbara Boswell
  3. ELL5019S Contemporary Black South African Literature: Dr Mandisa Haarhoff (Not offered in 2021)

World Literatures in English

  1. ELL5044F Race & Relationality in AfroEuropean Literature: Dr Polo Moji
  2. ELL5043S Debates in World Literatures: Perspectives from the Global South: Dr Kate Highman

Literary Engagements with the Past

  1. ELL5068F History and Historicity: Dr Peter Anderson
  2. ELL5040S Memory, Trauma and the Limits of Language: Prof Sandra Young and A/Prof Hedley Twidle

The Intersection between Creative and Critical Writing

  1. ELL5046S Writing workshop: Cultural Criticism, Non-Fiction and the Essay: A/Prof Hedley Twidle 
  2. ELL5077F Wayward Experiments and Hybrid Genres: Ms Sindiswa Busuku 

Environmental Humanities

The Department also hosts one of the electives offered within the Humanities Faculty’s Masters in Environmental Humanities:

  1. ELL5042F Earth Ecology Humanities: A/Prof Hedley Twidle


Semester 1

ELL5074F Current Thought in Black African Literature

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: Dr C. Ouma

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:
This seminar will revisit debates that dominated discussions of the category 'Modern African Literature', exposing epistemologies of students African novelist form. Students will be taught key intellectual figures and moments in African literary history;and differing epistemologies related to the evolution of the Modern African Novel. It also aims to equip students with archival research skills.

DP requirements: None

Assessment: TBC.

ELL5066F Gender and Literature: African Feminist Thought

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: A/Prof Barbara Boswell

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

This seminar explores women’s literary history in Africa and the theorisation of gender through literature. Drawing on transnational feminist literary theory, while centering feminist theory from the African continent, it will historically locate women’s literary production in Africa. The course traces a lineage of African feminist literary criticism and thought, showing how the history of such knowledge production finds resonance and articulation in contemporary writing around race, sexuality and representation.

Students will be enabled to recognise the African continent as a site of feminist knowledge production; be  familiarised with imperial feminism and African feminists' attempts to produce theory grounded in local specificities amd  with the broad body of African feminist literary theory and criticism. This course will enable students to read critically, and engage critically with African feminist theory in writing and verbally, and conduct research on feminist African literature and African feminist theory. The course aims to help students situate and integrate African feminist epistemology into larger bodies of feminist criticism.

Set works: 
Texts include excerpts from Ifi Amadiume’s Reinventing Africa (1997), Amadiume’s Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in African Societies (1987); Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi’s “Womanism: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Black Female Novel in English” (1985), Molara Ogundipe’s Recreating Ourselves: African Women and Critical Transformations (1994), Juliana Nfah-Abbenyi’s Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality and Difference (1997), Yvette Abrahams’s “Images of Sara Baartman: Sexuality, Race and Gender in Early 19th Century Britain” (1997), Desiree Lewis’s “Representing African Sexualities” (2011) Pumla Dineo Gqola’s Rape: A South African Nightmare (2015), Makhosazana Xaba’s Running and Other Stories (2013), and Floretta Boonzaier’s “The Life and Death of Anene Booysen: Colonial Discourse, Gender-based Violence and Media Representations” (2017).

DP requirements: None.

Assessment: 5 x 800-1000 word reflection papers on readings covered, synthesizing different articles or chapters while inserting students' own scholarly “voice” into analysis of the texts. Assessment will be based on the rigour of engagement with writers’ ideas, as well as student ability to articulate scholarly/activist responses to the ideas presented. (45%)

Final research essay of between 3500 – 4000 words, synthesizing and expanding on one or more themes of the course. (55%)

ELL5044F Race & Relationality in AfroEuropean Literature

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: Dr P. Moji

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:
This course re-theorises the figure of the AfroEuropean within the context of contemporary Afrodiasporic literature, notions of porosity and oceanic mobility imagined by the discourse of crisis surrounding contemporary trans-Mediterranean/Atlantic crossings into “Fortress Europe”. Equally weighted between literary and theoretical texts, it interrogates the “silent racialisations” and varying constructions of blackness in Europe through the conceptual lens of relationality (Edouard Glissant). This is a reading and discussion-intensive course in which students engage critically with translated texts, comparative approaches and the theoretical terrain of black phenomenology, including extracts of Tina Campt’s – Other Germans (2004) and Fatima el Tayeb’s European Others (2011)

Set works: 

  1. Edouard Glissant (Trans. Betsy Wing), The Poetics of Relation (1993)
  2. Alain Mabanckou: The Tears of a Black Man – essays (2012)
  3. Creative texts TBC
  4. Extracts of relevant theoretical texts will be made available on VULA

DP requirements: None.

Assessment: Assessments include (but are not limited to) 1x reading journal, 1 x reading response presentation and 1x final essay. At MA level students will also be expected to produce a concept paper prior to their final essay.

Total word count – 8000 words.

ELL5068F History and Historicity

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: Dr P. Anderson

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

This seminar concentrates on the vexed place of history in literary (and cultural) studies. How real and how textual is history? What kind of uses may history be brought to bear upon our reading of literature and culture, and with what security? Is it possible or desirable to read history - both secondary accounts and "primary" archives - with the kinds of caprice that some literary theory urges upon us in reading literary and cultural texts? 

In particular we will seek to grasp the kinds of feints, dashes and grabs that the so-called New Historicism has brought to our work since the 1980s, and to consider not only its philosophical contingencies, its debt to literary theory, Marxism and Anthropology, but also its method and style. And we'll ask: Can these signatures underwrite a reading of history itself?

DP requirements: None.

Assessment: Students taking this elective will write one paper on the critical methodology and theory of historiography/historicism, and will write one piece of creative criticism along the lines of the authors we read, particularly after the example of "the anecdote" in the writing of the New Historicism.

Total word count – 8000 words.

ELL5042F Earth Ecology Humanities

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: A/Prof H. Twidle

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

The environmental humanities is the term for a dynamic and growing field in universities across the world, one promoting interdisciplinary scholarship that explores how we understand the relations between humans and the environment in all areas of cultural production. Ranging from social justice movements to the creative arts, from questions of scientific modelling to the language of government policy, it examines questions of sustainability, human wellbeing and the environment in their broadest sense. In a 21st-century context of increasing pressure on the biosphere, the environmental humanities provide a vital intellectual space that enables researchers, students, artists, writers, scientists, policy-makers and practitioners to reflect critically on the concepts that underlie contemporary environmentalism, as well as broader social imaginings of ‘the natural’.

In this co-taught course, we will ask how a critical, politically aware environmental consciousness of the South might be brought forth in the public sphere. What, after all, do we mean when we speak of ‘the environment’? Whose environment, and who gets to speak? Such domains are often deemed the preserve of an economic elite, and tend to be set against the imperative of national economic development. How can we evolve a critical environmentalism that is able to unravel such polarities – of ‘development’ versus ‘the environment’ – while also being aware of the imprint of a colonial and racialised past that has shaped much ‘green’ thought here, and the historical links between the practice of ‘nature conservation’ and political conservatism.

Research questions: We will be considering how different disciplines and mediums imagine the environment, by asking questions like:

  • How have writers and artists tried to bring the complex effects of climate change into conceptual focus?
  • What kind of narrative structures and metaphors are embedded in contemporary environmentalism, and what new forms of ‘telling’ and ‘seeing’ are emerging within the present?
  • What kind of written and visual forms are able to render the ‘slow violence’ of ecological degradation, happening as it does within scales of time and size that are often too small or too large for the single human agent to grasp?
  • How can public science writers mediate the complexity and uncertainty that inhere within scientific method for a public sphere that demands easily reproducible, compressed forms of information in a high-velocity digital world?
  • What different ‘cultures of nature’ can be discerned when working with different histories, genres and art forms from across the global South?

DP requirements: None.

Assessment: First essay – 2000-3000 words (30%). To be submitted at the end of the mid-semester break. 
Second essay – 3000-4000 words (40%). To be submitted at the end of semester.
Portfolio of weekly writing exercises, drafts and journal entries (30%). To be submitted at the end of semester.

ELL5077F/S Wayward Experiments and Hybrid Genres 

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenors: Sindiswa Busuku

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a masters programme.

Course outline: 

What are hybrid genres? What does it mean to write and experiment from ‘in-between’? This elective b(l)ends both ‘critical’ and ‘creative’ writing practices. This interdisciplinary elective oscillates, at all times, between theory and practice. It is writing-intensive and demands lyrical richness and theoretical depth. This elective combines research, critical theory, fictional narrative and poetic language. Students will explore and experiment with form, genre and narrative techniques in a variety of ways. The elective, through selected readings, will explore the questionable dynamics of power that create and uphold boundaries around the so-called ‘critical imagination’ and the so-called ‘creative imagination’. How might we disrupt such boundaries within the academy? How might hybridity reshape the academy? The course exists at the intersection of the lyric essay, various poetic forms and is deeply rooted in advanced scholarly work. Through a mixture of seminars and writing workshops, students will explore a range of prescribed reading as a means of developing their style and technique. Students will engage with authors such as Yvette Christiansë, SaidiyaHartman, Anne Carson, Claudia Rankine, Hélène Cixous, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Michael Ondaatje, Trinh T. Minh-ha, John D'Agata, Annie Dillard, Gloria Anzaldúa, and so on.

DP requirements: None

Assessment: TBC.

Semester 2

ELL5019S Contemporary Black South African Literature (Not offered in 2020)

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: Dr M. Haarhoff

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

Centering on Black South African writing and literary criticism, the seminar invites Honours and Masters students to engage more rigorously with the critical tensions and contributions of the South African literary landscape. To debate the place of South African writing within postcolonial studies and across the global south. It aims to illuminate the aesthetic developments, the thematic shifts, the theoretical approaches that distinguish black South African writing. The Masters students will consider more critically the challenges, questions, and theoretical possibilities of reading these texts within the framework of the socio-political and intellectual concerns of the present.

Through the study and discussion of novels, poetry, critical debates, and the socio-political and cultural context, this seminar will highlight and attempt to understand some of the principal issues and critiques pertaining to the expression and reception of black South African literature over the last half century to present. A range of choices will be discussed , from Alex La Guma’s novels of the high apartheid era to the work of Black Consciousness writers, as well as other immediately pre-liberation and post-liberation work. A number of key issues and terms will be debated, drawing connections that place black South African literature within the larger scope of postcolonial literature.

This course aims to enable students to develop their own arguments within a wide ranging discourse on black South African Literature. Students will gain a strong background of South African literary criticism and have a well-rounded understanding of postcolonial theory in the South African context.  

DP requirements: None

Assessment: Two class essays 20% each, one long research essay 60% coming to a total of 8000 words.

ELL5043S Debates in World Literature: Perspectives from the Global South 

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: Dr K. Highman

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

 This elective will give students an overview of the current conversations and contestations around the idea of World Literature. It will explore what perspectives from Africa, the postcolonial world and the global south can contribute to these debates by troubling and unsettling the themes, conceptual frameworks, theories and genealogies that are currently dominant within the field, and thus map new directions. 

The questions we will explore in this seminar include: what is the state of the current debates in World Literature? How are these debates currently shaping the field? What is the place of voices from Africa, the postcolonial world and the global south in these debates? How do literatures in the 'minor' languages of the world count? Can we think World Literature outside of capital and/or imperial or global languages?

We will be reading a substantial amount of scholarly work, but also creative work that has been taken up as ‘World Literature’ or offers interesting perspectives on its theorization. This will range across genres (poetry, the novel, the short story, anthologies, the little magazine). In considering debates about World Literature, and how texts come to circulate as such, our focus will not only be on individual writers and texts, but also on various literary institutions: English departments, libraries, writers’ organisations, literary prizes and publishing networks.

DP requirements: None

Assessment: Two essays of 4000 words (80%); class participation and tasks (20%).

Primary Texts:  The titles that are starred, you will need to source for yourselves. The others will be provided.

Adichie, C. ‘Jumping Monkey Hill’. 2006.

*Cole, Teju. Everyday is for the Thief. 2007.

*Howe, Sarah. Loop of Jade. 2015.

*Mda, Z. The Heart of Redness. 2000.

p’Bitek, O. Song of Lawino. 1967.

*Saro-Wiwa. Sozaboy. 1985.

*Wicomb, Zoe. ‘The One That Got Away’. The One That Got Away. 2009.

Extracts from Staffrider and damn you

ELL5040S Memory, Trauma and the Limits of Language

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: Prof S. Young and A/Prof H. Twidle

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

The field of memory studies has been preoccupied with a paradox: traumatic experience seems to defy representation, while intensifying the imperative to bear witness. Moreover, the dependence of history on testimonies, life narratives, visual art and even fiction has turned the work of private mourning and survival into a matter of public importance. In this course, we will consider literature that wrestles with such questions, exploring the role of what seems intimate and personal (stories of the body, grief, pain, attachment, subjectivity, ageing) in the making of history and a public archive. Recent calls for the decolonisation of memory studies have drawn attention to the politics and sociality of pain, and to the place of visual and literary culture in making visible historical injustice. In light of these calls to de-individualise the language of trauma, we will probe the role of personal (and often silenced) narratives in securing the claims of ‘history’. 

The course materials move across a wide variety of global contexts and literary genres: both fiction and non-fiction, as well as performance art, documentary film, curated museum spaces and various forms of public remembrance. We will consider the aftermaths of war and the Holocaust; the ‘stolen generations’ of Australia; and the refugee experience on the Mexico-United States border. We will explore questions of truth, reconciliation and their limits in societies emerging from political repression: Soviet Russia, Latin America, Japan, Northern Ireland and post-apartheid South Africa. In the later sections, we will trace how the psychological and neurological basis of identity and memory is represented in narrative. Via memoir, poetry, visual art and music, we will consider the relation between (damaged) memory and selfhood in literatures of ageing, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.Participants will have an opportunity to do independent research into specific acts of memorialisation by engaging a particular archive, all as part of our wider engagement with cultural production as a form of remembrance.

Primary texts: Students will need to source copies of the starred texts. Please note that the reading load is quite heavy for this course, so you are advised to find and read the book-length works prior to the semester.

Term 1 

  • Svetlana Alexievich, The Unwomanly Face of War (1985; trans. 2017) (excerpts provided).
  • Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces (1996)*
  • Charlotte Delbo, Days and Memory (1985) (excerpts provided)
  • Primo Levi, If This is a Man (excerpts provided)
  • The Sorry Books Archive. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (1998) (Available as an online archive)
  • Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (2019)*

Term 2

  • Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police (1994. Trans. Stephen Snyder, 2019)*
  • George Orwell, excerpts from Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) (excerpts provided)
  • Patrick Radden Keefe. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (2019)*
  • Jonny Steinberg. Murder in Bethlehem (2019)*
  • Finuala Dowling, Notes from the Dementia Ward (2008) (excerpts provided)
  • Nicci Gerrard, excerpts from What Dementia Teaches Us About Love (2019) (excerpts provided)

DP requirements: None

Assessment: Short reflection pieces / work journal and two essays of 3,000 words.
Total word count of 8000 words required at MA level.

ELL5046S Writing workshop: Cultural Criticism, Non-Fiction and the Essay

24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

Convenor: A/Prof  H. Twidle 

Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

Course outline:

This is a writing-intensive seminar for both ‘academic’ and ‘creative’ writers – a division that we will try to unravel in interesting ways as we explore how critical, academic and intellectual work can take shape in more creative forms and public voices. We will use contemporary essays, creative criticism and literary non-fiction to generate our own writing tasks. Students will also be required to write two stand-alone essays (on subjects of their own choice) and to keep a semester-long reading journal. Some writing exercises might include: reviewing imaginary books; using ‘found’ materials and tracing the lives of objects; working within artificial constraints; linking image, music and text; walking in the city and representing space; interviewing and telling the stories of others; researching biographical profiles and portraits; writing art and music journalism; exploring filmic, photo and documentary ‘essays’. The primary aim of the seminar is to prepare students to write for a wider audience than that of conventional academic writing, and to allow them the space to experiment with ‘voice’ in this sense. It aims to foster a public kind of criticism, and to train students to become reviewers, cultural commentators and arts journalists both within and beyond the 21st-century academy.

Course aims and concepts:

  • Wide exposure to forms of cultural criticism and creative non-fiction from around the world.
  • Knowledge of the history of the creative, critical or personal essay as a form.
  • Familiarity with a range of genres within the public humanities: profiles, reviews, review essays, creative criticism, comparative and cross-platform approaches to cultural texts.
  • Intense immersion in skills of editing and preparing one's own writing for a wider audience.
  • A substantial portfolio of creative and critical work.
  • Skills of peer review and being able to respond constructively to the work of others.

DP requirements: None

Assessment: First essay – 2000-3000 words (30%). To be submitted at the end of the mid-semester break.
Second essay – 3000-4000 words (40%). To be submitted at the end of semester.
Portfolio of weekly writing exercises, drafts and journal entries (30%). To be submitted at the end of semester.