Provisional schedule


Gyorg Lukacs, 'Franz Kafka or Thomas Mann'? (pdf)

Theodor Adorno, 'Reconciliation under Duress' (pdf)

South Africa's Freedom Charter (1955)(pdf)

Steve Biko, 'Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity' (pdf)

William Beinart, 'Black Political Struggles and the Reform Era’, ‘Insurrection and Negotiations’ (pdf)

Nadine Gordimer, ‘Living in the Interregnum’, ‘The Essential Gesture’ (pdf)

Thengani H. Ngwenya, ‘Black Consciousness Poetry: Writing Against Apartheid’ (pdf)

Nick Visser, ‘Fictional Projects and the Irruptions of History: Mongane Serote’s To Every Birth Its Blood (pdf)

Mongane Wally Serote interviewed by Rolf Solberg (pdf)

Kelwyn Sole, ‘“This Time Set Again:” The Temporal and Political Conceptions of Serote’s /To Every Birth Its Blood’/ (pdf)

Neil Lazarus, ‘Modernism and Modernity: T. W. Adorno and Contemporary White South African Literature’ (pdf)

Benita Parry, ‘Speech and Silence in the Fictions of J. M. Coetzee’ (pdf)

Njabulo Ndebele, ‘The Rediscovery of the Ordinary’ (pdf)

Sample student research paper / annotated bibliography (pdf)


Office Hours: This is a time where you and I can meet outside class to discuss assignments, questions about the reading, concerns about expectations, etc. If my scheduled hours are inaccessible to you, please email me to make appointments for another time.

Accommodation: Please let me know if you need accommodation of any sort. The UW Disability Services Office (DSO) can assist you and/or you can come directly to me. I'm very willing to take suggestions specific to this class to meet your needs. The DSO can be contacted at, and Phone (206) 543-6450

Classroom Ethics: Respect for difference of all kinds - including race, ethnicity, religion, age, sex and gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, political and ideological beliefs, etc. - is vital to creating a safe, supportive and stimulating classroom community. Please respect the other members of this class so that we can all be open and honest about who we are and what we think and believe.

Class Preparation and Participation.
As you read all of the course material, ask the following questions:

Seminar Participation includes productive speaking and listening: the sharing of ideas, questions, issues arising from the week's reading; constructive engagement with the ideas of others in the class; making connections with topics and ideas arising from previous weeks; showing initiative in non-prescribed secondary research which you share with the class. In preparing the week's readings please note down the page numbers of particular passages, sentences which you then direct the class's attention to: the more specific your references are, the more productive the class discussion can be.

Presentations should be 10-15 minutes. They need to set up a set of questions for the class to engage with. These questions should arise from close reading of the text and be directed at further analysis of the text. It can be very helpful if you include a handout to accompany the presentation, which gives (page referenced) issues for class debate.

What the presentation should NOT be:

Missing class will make it hard to succeed in this course and may negatively affect your participation grade. If you do miss class, it's a great idea to send out an email to the class list or to ask a fellow student for information on what you missed. NB: Do not ask me-I don't repeat missed material!

Late policy: Students are required to complete and hand in all assignments on designated days. No late assignments will be accepted without prior explanation.

Short Writing Assignments.
These should be 1-2 pages, typed, double spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point, stapled, with student's name on all pages. They need to provide a summary and evaluation of that day's reading: you need to identify the key arguments, the key issues, the author's method of analysis, the key assumptions of the author. You need to evaluate by presenting the strengths and weaknesses of the text, as you see them, identifying any conceptual tensions, contradictions, in the text, and in what ways it challenged you, what questions it raises for your understanding and ideas.

Research Papers.
Papers should display literary and conceptual engagement, rigorous argument, original insight, contextual knowledge, and evidence of independent scholarly research (reading of materials not prescribed for the course). They must be typed, double spaced, in Times New Roman 12 point, stapled, with the student's name on all the pages. They should follow the MLA style sheet. Papers must have an annotated bibliography that lists the texts discussed, cited, consulted, with full publication details including first and last page numbers for articles and chapters. How many items to be included in the bibliography? At least 10, including the primary text. Those items need to be works that your essay shows actual knowledge of; that is, works that you cite and draw upon in the essay. 5 of those bibliographical items need to be materials that were not prescribed for the course and that you have discovered through your own research. The bibliography should not contain items that you have simply consulted but not used in any way. For an example of a good research paper and good annotated bibliography, see this sample paper (pdf) by Leah Orr, one of this course's readings.

You are responsible for editing and proof-reading your paper, and need to check its presentation, to ensure that it follows correct spelling, grammar, syntax as well as correct documentation (ie, the pagination details of a text when a text is quoted or cited).

Paper structure: essays should start with a short introduction in which you indicate what is significant about the issue you have chosen to write on. You might also outline the argument that your essay will pursue. Your essay should then move to a substantial discussion that gives the analysis and presents your argument. End with a conclusion that sums up your discussion and draws out its implications for further understanding of the literary text.

Regarding essay style: I like the use of the first person to present your argument. If you are uncomfortable using the first person, however, don't: just be careful to write in a way that foregrounds your own argument and avoids the appearance of descriptiveness or derivativeness.

Regarding the use of criticism: you need to show that you are widely read in the subject you are writing about. NB: This reading knowledge may include, but is not confined, to, author-based, conventional literary criticism. It also includes historical, cultural and theoretical reading. If you use literary criticism, be sure to use rather than rely on it: it should be clear to the reader that you are drawing upon the criticism simply to support your own analysis, not to substitute for your own analysis. It is also productive to reveal a capacity on your part to disagree with criticism.

Regarding essay titles: I like essay titles that set up a concept, or issue, to be explored. I do not like essay titles that set up a verbal imperative such as 'Discuss the treatment of Englishness in…' (better would be 'Englishness in…) Nor do I like essay titles that present a direct question, such as 'How pessimistic is Armah's writing?' (better would be 'Pessimism and Armah')

My criteria for grading papers include:

Here are some 'do nots'. Doing these will lower your grade.

Another common problem to avoid: writing sentences that aren't sentences. For example: There are two problems with her expression. The first BEING poor punctuation. [the latter is not a sentence]

Remember when writing essays on fiction to avoid the trap of writing about characters as if they are real. Instead, if you want to explore characterisation, you need to analyse the way that the writer presents characters, and why the writer presents them in this way.

Also avoid the trap of writing about characters, or a single character, as if they constitute the whole of the literary text. Remember that a fictional text consists of much more than its characters. Other elements of a text include:narrative structure; imagery; language; ideology; intertextual relationship to other texts.

And avoid the trap of writing about the text as if it is simply an emanation of the author's psyche or their personal experience. The object of analysis is the text, not the author's personality. If you are invoking biographical information you might consider the differences between the author's 'real life' experience and its representation in the literary text.


Writing Centers: We all benefit from having outside readers, or editors, giving feedback on drafts of our work. The Odegaard Writing & Research Center is a free interdisciplinary writing center that provides writing and research assistance from trained writing tutors and librarians during all stages of the writing process. Open Sunday-Thursday from 1:30-4:30 p.m. and 6:00-9:00 p.m.. Appointments and walk-ins welcome. Please visit for more information.

Academic Honesty: It is essential that you properly cite other people's ideas and language in your writing. In your assignments for this course, I encourage you to cite extensively from the wide array of texts you are in dialogue with; however, you must do so properly. Summarizing someone else's work and not citing them is considered plagiarism and has significant consequences for your career at the UW. It may result in the failure of an assignment, the failure of the course, or expulsion from the university. Don't plagiarize.

Useful historical reading:

Web sites
A useful one is South African History Online at

Useful periodicals include

To Do Now

Please order Serote's
To Every Birth its Blood immediately.

‘States of Emergency’

This course considers aesthetic strategies associated with political crisis. It focuses on South Africa whose system of rigid racial segregation erupted into open confrontation during the 1980s, as anti-racist, communist and black community activists coalesced to challenge the racist state. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency and authorizing extreme force. Accompanying political agitation was an explosion of literary creativity and fervent critical debate about aesthetics, among academics, activists and creative writers. This course engages with these debates and considers them within a broader context of Marxist, nationalist and postcolonial approaches to literary production, social domination and resistance. Four major and contrasting novels, by black, white and 'Coloured' writers Mongane Serote, Nadine Gordimer, J. M. Coetzee and Zoe Wicomb, published during this turbulent decade, provide the literary components of the course and serve to anchor the aesthetic-political debates. Among questions to be explored are: does realist fiction reinforce the politics of liberal reformism, or can it promote social revolution? Does metafictional experimentation promote individualism at the expense of collective values and agendas? What types of racial ideology are embedded within these aesthetic strategies? What kinds of anti-colonial resistance and solidarity become possible to imagine during a state of emergency? Do black and white writers differ in their deployment of narrative forms?

Required Texts

Three of the four literary texts—Gordimer's July's People; Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, and Zoe Wicomb's You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town—are available from the University Bookstore. One, Mongane Serote's To Every Birth its Blood, is not, and you will need to order it online from without delay.


50% for seminar participation including presentation and short writing assignments
50% for research paper, 10-12 pages, due Weds December 16, 2pm, my office.
I encourage you to discuss and plan your paper in consultation with me, during my office hours.