The following electives are offered within each of the streams of inquiry:

Black Literary and Intellectual Traditions

  1. ELL4033H Black Aesthetics and the Deep Ocean: Mapule Mohulatsi
  2. ELL5033H Early Modern Racecraft: Hassana Moosa

Gender and Sexuality in African Literature

  1. ELL4066F Gender and Literature: African Feminist Thought: A/Prof Barbara Boswell (Not offered in 2024)
  2. ELL4078S Towards an African Construction of Gender and Sexuality: Dr Bernard Fortuin

World Literatures in English

  1. ELL4036F Literary Cities/Cities of Literatures: A/Prof Polo Moji
  2. ELL4035S Debates in World Literatures: Perspectives from the Global South: Dr Kate Highman

Literature and the Archive

  1. ELL4068F History and Historicity: A/Prof Peter Anderson
  2. ELL4075S Memory, Trauma and the Limits of Language: Prof Sandra Young and A/Prof Hedley Twidle

The Intersection Between Creative and Critical Writing

  1. ELL4077F Wayward Experiments and Hybrid Genres: Sindiswa Busuku 
  2. ELL4076S Writing Workshop: Cultural Criticism, Non-Fiction and the Essay: A/Prof Hedley Twidle



    Semester 1

    ELL4033H Black Aesthetics and the Deep Ocean

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor: Mapule Mohulatsi

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    This course aims at exploring the ways contemporary black writing has contributed to the imaginaries of the deep ocean. Working with the black aesthetic as well as questions of ocean waste, the course looks into the deep ocean as an avenue to think with the aquatic environment’s emergent future, and past, as well as the ways in which perceptions of the marine environment are influenced in turn. In the course we set out to complicate simplistic received ideas of black intellectual traditions being cast as nationalistic, territorial or ‘landlocked’ modes, and to draw out the range of cultural, historical and artistic encounters with the sea, as both physical entity and mythic force. The course moves from historical analysis (particularly with regard to the mapping of the ocean floor), decolonial studies, feminist epistemologies and cultural / oceanic materialism (in drawing attention to the ‘agentive’ character of the oceans) towards a more fine-grained, open-ended and literary / art-historical mode of interpretation in considering the work of Claudette Schreuder, Neliswe Xaba, Wangechi Mutu, Nalo Hopkinson, Koleka Putuma, Nnedi Okorafor, Romesh Guneskera and Kei Miller. The course treats these various materials sensitively, drawing out their often-ambivalent reactions to the ocean with care. At its heart, the course explores the extent to which different cultural mediums (from poetry to visual art to the novel) are able to acknowledge or honour forms of agency where these have often been overlooked or denied by certain kinds of environmentalist, or even postcolonial, discourse.

    Set works: 

    Extracts and secondary texts will be provided on Vula. 

    1.    The Lost Girl art installation series by Claudette Schreuder 
    2.    The Urban Mermaid art installation series by Nelisiwe Xaba
    3.    Nguva sculptures by Wangechi Mutu 
    4.    The Salt Roads novel by Nalo Hopkinson
    5.    Lagoon novel by Nnedi Okorafor 
    6.    “Water” poem by Koleka Putuma in her collection Collective Amnesia
    7.    Black Venus short story collection by Angela Carter
    8.    Reef novel by Romesh Gunesekera
    9.    The Same Earth novel by Kei Miller 

    Students are not required to purchase The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson. 

    DP requirements: None

    Assessment: TBC

    ELL4036F Literary Cities/Cities of Literature

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor: A/Prof Polo Moji

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    This course addresses the intersections of the literature and the African urban, examining the affective, aesthetic and material dimensions of African visuality, spatiality and temporality in literary imaginaries of the African city. It addresses the discursive anxiety produced by an African urban that imagined as a being characterised by excess, abjection and precarity. Combining urban theory, black geographies and cultural theory, it delves beneath spectacular imaginaries of the African city through narratives of "of ordinary citizens in ordinary cities". Adopting a comparative approach, the course problematises the circulation of terms of 'Afropolitanism', 'Afro-polis', 'Afro-modernity', exploring questions located in the tension created by urban narrative forms as ones that not only document and comment on the development of cityscapes but are implicated in changing urban cultures. It is equally weighted between literary and theoretical texts, equipping students develop critical perspectives on urban literary genres, urban flânerie, performative streetscapes and gendered imaginaries of the African city.

    Course Structure

    Subject to change depending on availability of guest lecturers

    Literary Urban Studies - Imaginaries and Textualities 

    1. Curating Literary City: The Akashic / Cassava Republic Noir Series  

    A case study of this iconic series of short story collections as a publishing phenomenon that shapes the literary urban imaginary. Texts including but not limited to:

    1. Southern Urbanisms and People as Infrastructure


    Personal Urban Geographies and Spatiality

    1. Cape Town:  Literature and Spatial Contestations (Past /Present) 

    The material and literary dimensions of Cape Town as a city of literature. Includes the material and literary dimensions of Cape Town as a city of literature. Includes a project work, mapping the Open Book literary Festival and other sites of literature.

    1. Rights to the City: Spatial Freedom and the Figure of the Flaneur 

    Set works

    Extracts and secondary texts to be supplied on Vula

    1. The Akashic Noir Series (short story collections) : Nairobi Noir, Marrakech Noir, Lagos Noir, Accra Noir and Addis Ababa Noir
    2. Jo’burg Noir (2020),  edited by Niq Mhlongo
    3. Oxford Street, Accra: City Life the Itineraries of Transnationalism – Ato Quayson (Accra, Ghana)
    4. Broken Glass  (2005) Alain Mabanckou: ISBN 978-1-84668-815-7
    5. Zoo City (2014), Lauren Beukes ISBN 9781770098183

    Students are not required to purchase the Noir Series Books


    Project work with a write up in the first term, followed by an essay in the second term.

    Submissions totalling 6000 words for the semester, with more varied formats for project related tasks.

    ELL4066F Gender and Literature: African Feminist Thought (Not offered in 2024)

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor: A/Prof Barbara Boswell

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    This seminar explores women’s literary history in Africa and the theorisation of gender through literature. Drawing on transnational feminist literary theory, while centering feminist theory from the African continent, it will historically locate women’s literary production in Africa. The course traces a lineage of African feminist literary criticism and thought, showing how the history of such knowledge production finds resonance and articulation in contemporary writing around race, sexuality and representation.

    Students will be enabled to recognise the African continent as a site of feminist knowledge production; be  familiarised with imperial feminism and African feminists' attempts to produce theory grounded in local specificities amd  with the broad body of African feminist literary theory and criticism. This course will enable students to read critically, and engage critically with African feminist theory in writing and verbally, and conduct research on feminist African literature and African feminist theory. The course aims to help students situate and integrate African feminist epistemology into larger bodies of feminist criticism.

    Set works: 

    Texts include excerpts from Ifi Amadiume’s Reinventing Africa (1997), Amadiume’s Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in African Societies (1987); Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi’s “Womanism: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Black Female Novel in English” (1985), Molara Ogundipe’s Recreating Ourselves: African Women and Critical Transformations (1994), Juliana Nfah-Abbenyi’s Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality and Difference (1997), Yvette Abrahams’s “Images of Sara Baartman: Sexuality, Race and Gender in Early 19th Century Britain” (1997), Desiree Lewis’s “Representing African Sexualities” (2011) Pumla Dineo Gqola’s Rape: A South African Nightmare (2015), Makhosazana Xaba’s Running and Other Stories (2013), and Floretta Boonzaier’s “The Life and Death of Anene Booysen: Colonial Discourse, Gender-based Violence and Media Representations” (2017).

    DP requirements: None.

    Assessment: 5 x 800-1000 word reflection papers on readings covered, synthesizing different articles or chapters while inserting students' own scholarly “voice” into analysis of the texts. Assessment will be based on the rigour of engagement with writers’ ideas, as well as student ability to articulate scholarly/activist responses to the ideas presented. (45%)

    Final research essay of between 3500 – 4000 words, synthesizing and expanding on one or more themes of the course. (55%)

    ELL4068F History and Historicity

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor:  A/Prof Peter Anderson

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    This seminar concentrates on the vexed place of history in literary (and cultural) studies. How real and how textual is history? What kind of uses may history be brought to bear upon our reading of literature and culture, and with what security? Is it possible or desirable to read history - both secondary accounts and "primary" archives - with the kinds of caprice that some literary theory urges upon us in reading literary and cultural texts? 

    In particular we will seek to grasp the kinds of feints, dashes and grabs that the so-called New Historicism has brought to our work since the 1980s, and to consider not only its philosophical contingencies, its debt to literary theory, Marxism and Anthropology, but also its method and style. And we'll ask: Can these signatures underwrite a reading of history itself?

    DP requirements



    Students taking this elective will write one paper on the critical methodology and theory of historiography/historicism, and will write one piece of creative criticism along the lines of the authors we read, particularly after the example of "the anecdote" in the writing of the New Historicism.

    ELL4077F Wayward Experiments and Hybrid Genres 

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenors: Sindiswa Busuku

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    What are hybrid genres? What does it mean to write and experiment from ‘in-between’? This elective b(l)ends both ‘critical’ and ‘creative’ writing practices. This interdisciplinary elective oscillates, at all times, between theory and practice. It is writing-intensive and demands lyrical richness and theoretical depth. This elective combines research, critical theory, fictional narrative and poetic language. Students will explore and experiment with form, genre and narrative techniques in a variety of ways. The elective, through selected readings, will explore the questionable dynamics of power that create and uphold boundaries around the so-called ‘critical imagination’ and the so-called ‘creative imagination’. How might we disrupt such boundaries within the academy? How might hybridity reshape the academy? The course exists at the intersection of the lyric essay, various poetic forms and is deeply rooted in advanced scholarly work. Through a mixture of seminars and writing workshops, students will explore a range of prescribed reading as a means of developing their style and technique. Students will engage with authors such as Yvette Christiansë, Saidiya Hartman, Anne Carson, Claudia Rankine, Hélène Cixous, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Michael Ondaatje, Trinh T. Minh-ha, John D'Agata, Annie Dillard, Gloria Anzaldúa, and so on.

    DP requirements




    Semester 2

    ELL5033H Early Modern Racecraft 

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 9

    Convenor: Hassana Moosa

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an Honours programme.

    Course Outline: 

    This seminar will offer students an introduction to Premodern Critical Race Studies (PCRS) – a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary field that is concerned with manifestations of race and modes of race-making that prevailed in the premodern world (± pre-1750). PCRS is an intellectual tradition that developed from, and continues to be shaped by, scholars of colour who seek to resist the historical erasure of Black persons and other marginalised groups from premodern European literary archives. It also strives to counteract the denial that persists in literary and historical criticism, of the long-standing reality of racial ideology and its destructive effects.

    In exploring PCRS, this seminar will take as its focus race in literature and culture from the early modern period (1500-1750), a historical moment marked by heightened levels of global encounter and exchange; the emergence of capitalist frameworks; and a steady increase in imperial activities, like colonial settlement and slave-trade, amongst many of the world’s small nations and superpowers. Over the course of our seminars, students will examine formative scholarship in the field, alongside recent debates and new directions in criticism. The course content will be organised into four blocks to facilitate a multi-layered engagement with early modern conceptions of race and its materialisation in literary culture: 

    (1) Genealogies and Definitions
    (2) Instruments and Vocabularies (e.g. Blood and Skin Colour)
    (3) Intersections (e.g. Gender, Class, Religion)
    (4) Mechanisms and Structures (e.g. Language, Movement, and Geography)

    In each block, we will attend to a selection of critical material, as well as a selection of early modern literature from a variety of genres such as drama, poetry, romance, travel-writing, and political texts (including royal edicts and diplomatic writing). 

    By way of a cultural-historical exploration of race, the seminar aims to provide students with an understanding of the complexities of racial ideology and of the historical role of literature as a vehicle of racial fashioning. 
    Set Texts:

    Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta (1590)*
    Thomas Dekker, Lust’s Dominion, or The Lascivious Queen (1600)*
    Selected excerpts from the anthology Race in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion, ed. by Ania Loomba and Jonathan Burton

    *Students will be provided with access to readable digitised versions of the original texts. Students who would prefer modern versions will need to source these themselves.

    Students will be provided with articles as well as excerpts from a range of scholarship, including:

    Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England (1997)
    Ian Smith, Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance: Barbarian Errors (2009)
    Bernadette Andrea, The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern British Literature and Culture (2017) 
    Patricia Akhimie, Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World (2018)
    Matthieu Chapman, Anti-Black Racism in Early Modern Drama (2016)
    Jennifer L. Morgan, Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (2021)
    Noémie Ndiaye, Scripts of Blackness: Early Modern Performance Culture and the Making of Race (2022)

    DP Requirements: None


    Participation and Presentation (20%)
    Critical/Reflective Journal, to include three short critical responses of 800-1000 words (Honours) or 1500 words (Masters) each (30%)
    One essay of 2500 words (Honours) or 3500-4000 words (Masters) (50%)


    ELL4078FS Towards an African Construction of Gender and Sexuality

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor: Dr Bernard Fortuin

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    This seminar engages African scholars’ contribution to the theoretical and literary discussion around sexualities and gender in Africa. Given its colonial history, performances of gender and sexuality on the continent became viewed through a homogenising lens. This view constructed African sexualities and gender performances as antithetical to northern-based western understandings and theorising thereof. It also suggested that African sexualities and gender performances are primarily heteronormative. The historical trajectory of African theories that engage gender and sexualities will be mapped and critically evaluated. The theoretical aspect of the course is supported by the reading of a variety of creative texts that seek to represent gender and sexualities performed in Africa from an African perspective. The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the relevant theories currently circulating about gender, gender identities and sexualities on the continent. 

    DP requirements



    Two essays of 2500 words each.

    Set work

    Theoretical and literary readings will be provided on VULA.

    Literary readings will primarily be in the form of short stories and poems. 

    Some photographic work will also be discussed.

    ELL4035S Debates in World Literature: Perspectives from the Global South 

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor: Dr Kate Highman

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    This elective will give students an overview of the current conversations and contestations around the idea of World Literature. It will explore what perspectives from Africa, the postcolonial world and the global south can contribute to these debates by troubling and unsettling the themes, conceptual frameworks, theories, genealogies, etc. currently dominant within the field and thus map new directions. The questions we will explore in this seminar include: what is the state of current debates in World Literature? How are these debates shaping the field at the moment? What is the place of voices from Africa, the postcolonial world and the global south in these debates? How do literatures in the ‘minor’ languages of the world count? Can we think World literature outside of capital and/or imperial or global languages? We will read a substantial amount of scholarly work, but also creative work that has been taken up as ‘World Literature’ or offers interesting perspectives on its theorization. In considering debates about World Literature, and how texts come to circulate as such, our focus is not only on individual texts, but also on various literary institutions, for example English departments, libraries, writers’ organisations, literary prizes and publishing networks.

    DP requirements



    Two essays of 2500 words (80%); class participation and tasks (20%).

    Set works

    The titles that are starred, you will need to source for yourselves. The others will be provided.

    1. Adichie, C. ‘Jumping Monkey Hill’. 2006.

    2. Cole, Teju. Everyday is for the Thief. 2007.

    3. Howe, Sarah. Loop of Jade. 2015.

    4. Mda, Z. The Heart of Redness. 2000.

    5. p’Bitek, O. Song of Lawino. 1967.

    6. Saro-Wiwa. Sozaboy. 1985.

    7. Wicomb, Zoe. ‘The One That Got Away’. The One That Got Away. 2009.

    8. Extracts from Staffrider and damn you

    ELL4075S Memory, Trauma and the Limits of Language 

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenors: Prof. Sandra Young and A/Prof Hedley Twidle

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for an honours programme.

    Course outline

    The field of memory studies has been preoccupied with a paradox: traumatic experience seems to defy representation, while intensifying the imperative to bear witness. Moreover, the dependence of history on testimonies, life narratives, visual art and even fiction has turned the work of private mourning and survival into a matter of public importance. In this course, we will consider literature that wrestles with such questions, exploring the role of what seems intimate and personal (stories of the body, grief, pain, attachment, subjectivity, ageing) in the making of history and a public archive. Recent calls for the decolonisation of memory studies have drawn attention to the politics and sociality of pain, and to the place of visual and literary culture in making visible historical injustice. In light of these calls to de-individualise the language of trauma, we will probe the role of personal (and often silenced) narratives in securing the claims of ‘history’. 

    The course materials move across a wide variety of global contexts and literary genres: both fiction and non-fiction, as well as performance art, documentary film, curated museum spaces and various forms of public remembrance. We will consider the aftermaths of war and the Holocaust; the ‘stolen generations’ of Australia; and the refugee experience on the Mexico-United States border. We will explore questions of truth, reconciliation and their limits in societies emerging from political repression: Soviet Russia, Latin America, Japan, Northern Ireland and post-apartheid South Africa. In the later sections, we will trace how the psychological and neurological basis of identity and memory is represented in narrative. Via memoir, poetry, visual art and music, we will consider the relation between (damaged) memory and selfhood in literatures of ageing, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.Participants will have an opportunity to do independent research into specific acts of memorialisation by engaging a particular archive, all as part of our wider engagement with cultural production as a form of remembrance.

    Set works

    Students will need to source copies of the starred texts. Please note that the reading load is quite heavy for this course, so you are advised to find and read the book-length works prior to the semester.

    Term 1 

    • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (2015).*
    • Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police (1994. Trans. Stephen Snyder, 2019)*
    • George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).*
    • Finuala Dowling, Notes from the Dementia Ward (2008) (excerpts provided).
    • Nicci Gerrard, excerpts from What Dementia Teaches Us About Love (2019) (excerpts provided)

    Term 2

    • Svetlana Alexievich, The Unwomanly Face of War (1985; trans. 2017) (excerpts provided).
    • Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces (1996)*
    • Charlotte Delbo, Days and Memory (1985) (excerpts provided)
    • Primo Levi, If This is a Man (excerpts provided)
    • The Sorry Books Archive. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (1998) (Available as an online archive)
    • Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive (2019)*

    DP requirements: None

    Assessment: Short reflection pieces / work journal and two essays of 2,500 words.

    ELL4076S Writing workshop: Cultural Criticism, Non-Fiction and the Essay 

    24 NQF credits at HEQSF level 8

    Convenor: A/Prof Hedley Twidle 

    Course entry requirements: Acceptance for a master’s programme.

    Course outline

    This is a writing-intensive seminar for both ‘academic’ and ‘creative’ writers – a division that we will try to unravel in interesting ways as we explore how critical, academic and intellectual work can take shape in more creative forms and public voices. We will use contemporary essays, creative criticism and literary non-fiction to generate our own writing tasks. Students will also be required to write two stand-alone essays (on subjects of their own choice) and to keep a semester-long reading journal. Some writing exercises might include: reviewing imaginary books; using ‘found’ materials and tracing the lives of objects; working within artificial constraints; linking image, music and text; walking in the city and representing space; interviewing and telling the stories of others; researching biographical profiles and portraits; writing art and music journalism; exploring filmic, photo and documentary ‘essays’. The primary aim of the seminar is to prepare students to write for a wider audience than that of conventional academic writing, and to allow them the space to experiment with ‘voice’ in this sense. It aims to foster a public kind of criticism, and to train students to become reviewers, cultural commentators and arts journalists both within and beyond the 21st-century academy.

    Course aims and concepts:

    • Wide exposure to forms of cultural criticism and creative non-fiction from around the world.
    • Knowledge of the history of the creative, critical or personal essay as a form.
    • Familiarity with a range of genres within the public humanities: profiles, reviews, review essays, creative criticism, comparative and cross-platform approaches to cultural texts.
    • Intense immersion in skills of editing and preparing one's own writing for a wider audience.
    • A substantial portfolio of creative and critical work.
    • Skills of peer review and being able to respond constructively to the work of others.

    DP requirements



    First essay: 2000 - 3000 words (30%). To be submitted at the end of the mid-semester break.
    Second essay: 3000 - 4000 words (40%). To be submitted at the end of semester:
    Portfolio of weekly writing exercises, drafts and journal entries (30%). To be submitted at the end of semester.