Single Author: Ngugi wa Thiongo

ENG 440 (001)–Single Author-Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o (known widely as Ngugi) is one of the foremost African and postcolonial writers of the last half century. Widely celebrated, he is repeatedly short listed for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Furthermore, he is unusual for the wide variety of genres in which he has written and excelled since the Sixties. He has written deeply about colonialism, the aftermath of colonialism, political corruption, language politics, and cultural criticism. He is a novelist, a critic, a memoirist, and a dramatist. For all these reasons, his large and fascinating body of work repays sustained attention.

Ngugi is a public intellectual of considerable influence, and has been at the center of literary debates of wide relevance. He has also played a significant role in the Pacific, where he has traveled many times and writers like Haunani-Kay Trask and Albert Wendt have read him with great interest. His views on language in relationship to literature are especially fascinating–he began writing exclusively in English but now is a bilingual writer in Gikuyu and English.

Through the study of his literary career, we can learn much about the twists and turns of African and postcolonial literary productions as well as about genre analysis (since he writes in so many genres). We will be able to trace the nature of literary influence. Students will get experience in advanced research on literary topics.

Readings (tentative list):

Works by Ngugi: A Grain of Wheat and Petals of Blood (novels); Decolonizing the Mind and Globalectics (works of criticism); The Trial of Dedan Kimathi (play); In the House of the Interpreter (memoir).

These works will be supplemented by works on Ngugi, responding to Ngugi and on genre and postcolonial criticism (by writers like Trask, Wendt, Chinua Achebe, John Frow and Fredric Jameson). The supplementary works will be available through Laulima.

Class Assignments and Procedures:

An oral presentation, which will also be turned in as a short paper (4 pages)

A paragraph proposing a research topic, accompanied by a preliminary bibliography with brief two-line annotations (2 pages)

An analytical essay (10 pages)

All these assignments will go through a drafting/workshopping process. Students will present their research to the class multiple times during the semester.

Additionally, students will keep a regular public reading log on the primary texts via Laulima’s Discussion Board