I have been teaching courses about African literature and thought at Princeton University since 2008. (Information about my publication courses are elsewhere.)
An important course that I teach almost every year is Introduction to African Literature and Film. This gives me a chance to teach undergraduates about the richness and diversity of foundational African texts (some in translation), while foregrounding questions of aesthetics, style, and humor.We start with medieval and early modern African texts and end with novels written in the 2010s.
More recently I’ve started teaching a course called Sisters’ Voices: African Women Writing, about the amazing poems, novels, and memoirs written by African women, to expand students’ understanding of the long history of women’s writing across Africa and a range of languages and as an antidote to misconceptions of African women as silent.
I have also taught a course called African Vampires, Zombies, and Other Phantoms, studying African vampires, witches, zombies, mermaids, and ghosts as a way of thinking about how Africa is constructed in the global imagination as well as how African and African diasporic artists use magic to analyze the dynamics of power. Its an interdisciplinary anthropology, political science, literature, and history course, looking at several bodies of literature (twentieth-century African American and Francophone fiction; twenty-first century African science fiction; West African popular film) as well as the latest in theorizing about magic, culture, and the state.
In the past, I’ve taught a course related to my book, titled Representing the Queen of Sheba in the Islamic, Jewish, and Christians Traditions, about one of the most famous women to ever appear in literature, depicted for two thousand years in three great world traditions. The course allowed us to compare representations of the queen across these traditions and gain insight into the complex ways that groups think about national identity, gender, and race.
Two related courses are based in my interest in African memoirs. The first is Model Memoirs: The Lifestories of International Supermodels, now regularly taught by Imani Perry, and the other is Growing Up Global: Novels and Memoirs of Transnational Childhoods. The latter course emerges from my own transnational childhood–I grew up in Ethiopia and Ghana–and I wanted to teach a course for all those who had a passport from one country, a face from another continent, an accent from yet another, and live somewhere related to none of them.
I have also taught graduate courses. One is Introduction to Comparative Literature, which traces the history of criticism in comparative literature along with recent critical developments such as surface reading, affect theory, necropolitics, queer futurity, the new materialism, thing theory, biopolitics, ecocriticism, world literature, theory from the south, critiques of neoliberalism, and so on. The class does not embrace a mastery posture toward theory, but an instrumental one, aiming to assist graduate students in conceptualizing their particular projects within and against current debates.
I also regularly teach Reading Race and Gender as Publishing Praxis [link], in which we read deeply and broadly in academic journals as a way of learning the debates in students’ fields and placing their scholarship in relationship to them. Students report each week on the trends in the last five years of any journal of their choice, writing up the articles’ arguments and debates, while also revising a paper in relationship to those debates and preparing it for publication. This course enables students to leap forward in their scholarly writing through a better understanding of their fields and the significance of their work to them.
I have also taught a couple of other courses.
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