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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL32143 Disposable Lives?

20 creditsClass Size: 40

School of English

Module manager: Dr Samuel Durrant

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

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 not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Achille Mbembe has argued that life in the African postcolony 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 African 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 models of masculinity and femininity emerge when the norms of familial and communal life are suspended? 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 novels, short stories and films about people displaced by various forms of violence. We will explore how these texts negotiate various regimes of terror by refusing to accept the idea that human life has become disposable. Drawing on the remnant of indigenous African spiritualities, they work to recover regenerative possibilities even in the bleakest of historical times.


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.



Amos Tutuola, 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' (Faber, 2014)
Athol Fugard, 'Tsotsi', (Canongate, 1979)
Yvonne Vera, 'The Stone Virgins' (Farah, Strauss and Giroux 2014, Kindle edition)
Mia Couto, 'Sleepwalking Land' (Serpent's Tale, 1988, trans. 2006)
Uzodinma Iweala, 'Beasts of No Nation' (Murray 2006)
'District Nine' dir. Neill Blomkamp (DVD)
Nnedi Okorafor, 'Lagoon' (Hodder 2014).
Assia Djebar, 'The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry' (Seven Stories Press, 2010)

Screenings of the film adaptation of 'Tsotsi', 'Sleepwalking Land' and 'Beasts of No Nation' will be arranged.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Film Screenings21.503.00
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

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 word research essay80.00
Written Work1x1000 word comparative review plus 100 wds/wk contribution to online discussion group20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:36:19


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