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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL32143 Disposable Lives?

20 creditsClass Size: 30

For full module descriptions of our level 2 and 3 undergraduate modules (including details of preparatory reading, texts for purchase and required unassessed work) please see the Undergraduate Module Handbook in the English Organisation on the VLE.

Visiting and Exchange Students must read this information before selecting modules.

Module manager: Dr Samuel Durrant
Email: s.r.durrant@leeds.ac.uk

Taught: Semester 2 View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Literature (or equivalent) or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English (or its non-UK equivalent).

This module is mutually exclusive with

ENGL3205Disposable Lives?

Module replaces

ENGL3370 & ENGL3205

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Achille Mbembe has argued that life in many postcolonial states has been rendered “disposable” by global capitalism, neo-colonial exploitation, despotic national governments, environmental degradation and borderless, perpetually mutating civil wars. This module looks at the problems facing writers who have attempted to represent these seemingly disposable lives and the fragile, barely human conditions of their existence. How to measure character development when the life of the individual is determined by the whims of national and transnational power? How to construct meaningful plots when day to day life has been rendered arbitrary and uncertain? What happens to the infrastructure of the novel when the infrastructure of the state has crumbled away?We will begin to answer such questions by looking at a series of what might be called ‘fugitive narratives,’ stories about people displaced by various forms of violence. We will look at the lives of two very different drifters during and after apartheid (Tsotsi and Life and Times of Michael K); at an Elvis impersonator coming of age in a Lagos slum slated for demolition (Graceland); at the wanderings of an old man and a boy in war-torn Mozambique (Sleepwalking Land); at child soldier narratives from West Africa (Sozaboy and Song for Night; and at the stories of women who survived the wars that followed the independence of Zimbabwe and Algeria (The Stone Virgins and The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry). We will also look at the film versions of Tsotsi, updated to post-apartheid South Africa, and Mia Couto’s Sleepwalking Land. As our characters wander amidst chaotic, fractured landscapes, the possibilities for conventional human development seemingly stalled, we will explore how these novels and films refuse to accept the idea that human life has become disposable. Drawing on the remnants of indigenous African mythologies, they work to recover regenerative possibilities even in the bleakest of historical times.

Objectives

To explore contemporary African literature and modernity.

Learning outcomes
Understanding of African literature, culture and society.

Skills outcomes
Close analysis of literature; socio-political analysis; research and essay writing.


Syllabus

Achille Mbembe has argued that life in many postcolonial states has been rendered “disposable” by global capitalism, neo-colonial exploitation, despotic national governments, environmental degradation and borderless, perpetually mutating civil wars. This module looks at the problems facing writers who have attempted to represent these seemingly disposable lives and the fragile, barely human conditions of their existence. How to measure character development when the life of the individual is determined by the whims of national and transnational power? How to construct meaningful plots when day to day life has been rendered arbitrary and uncertain? What happens to the infrastructure of the novel when the infrastructure of the state has crumbled away?

We will begin to answer such questions by looking at a series of what might be called ‘fugitive narratives,’ stories about people displaced by various forms of violence. We will look at the lives of two very different drifters during and after apartheid (Tsotsi and Life and Times of Michael K); at an Elvis impersonator coming of age in a Lagos slum slated for demolition (Graceland); at the wanderings of an old man and a boy in war-torn Mozambique (Sleepwalking Land); at child soldier narratives from West Africa (Sozaboy and Song for Night; and at the stories of women who survived the wars that followed the independence of Zimbabwe and Algeria (The Stone Virgins and The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry). We will also look at the film versions of Tsotsi, updated to post-apartheid South Africa, and Mia Couto’s Sleepwalking Land. As our characters wander amidst chaotic, fractured landscapes, the possibilities for conventional human development seemingly stalled, we will explore how these novels and films refuse to accept the idea that human life has become disposable. Drawing on the remnants of indigenous African mythologies, they work to recover regenerative possibilities even in the bleakest of historical times.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Film Screenings21.503.00
Lectures21.002.00
Seminar101.0010.00
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading, seminar preparation, essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Seminar contribution
- Contributing weekly to an online discussion group (100 words/week)

Methods of assessment


Coursework
Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 word research essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Unassessed essay (1700 words) There is an unassessed essay requirement of 1700 words. This is broken down as follows: 1) At least 900 words contributed to the discussion board (roughly 100 words/week). Just cut and paste your weekly contributions. 2) 800 word proposal for your assessed essay. This proposal should include • A title question eg ‘Compare the function of landscape in Heart of Darkness and Life and Times of Michael K’ • A draft introduction and provisional outline of your argument, including a draft thesis statement. Obviously, you may want to include texts that we have yet to study, and your essay may well change shape once you have read all the texts

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 04/04/2019

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