Anglophone Cultures II

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Focusing on the literary and non-literary works, films, discourses, art forms and cultural products and practices of the Anglophone countries which are taken as case studies in the syllabus, this course aims to contextualize them against the complex political and cultural histories of these countries, rooted in the fraught, divisive experiences of colonization, empire, decolonization and globalized contemporaneity. The course aims to provide the students with an inter- and cross-cultural awareness, as well as to enhance their critical knowledge and understanding of these themes, which are increasingly relevant to our current experience of the global, with its claims and alterities, and enduring inequalities. These aims are pursued through the methodological and critical tools of cultural studies, which, combined here with postcolonial theory, and in tune with the avowed educational and vocational objectives of our Master Degree Course, privilege multicultural and interdisciplinary exchanges and perspectives. By fostering active participation from the students, and providing opportunities for advancing spoken English skills, the course sets out to enhance the students' critical- analytical skills, their ability to make independent judgements and organize their own work and study projects, and encourages an advanced ability to recognize differences and make thoughtful connections among divergent forms, genres, practices, identities and cultures, in line with the overall mission of Lingue e Culture per la Comunicazione e la Cooperazione Internazionale.

Objectives include:
- Knowledge and understanding - Students will gain knowledge and critical understanding of a range of cultural practices, productions (visual art, films, writing, performances), and literary genres and texts in English, relevant to the main themes of the course, which they will approach through the lens of selected Cultural Studies practices and theories. Selected theoretical paradigms and current debates in Postcolonial Theory, as well as the contested legacies of colonisation and decolonisation, and their impact on non-Western paths to globalisation will be also important elements of the course.
- Applying knowledge and understanding - Students will have the opportunity to apply their acquired knowledge and understanding to in-depth close reading and critical analysis of cultural productions and literary texts; to improving their ability to retrieve, select, synthesise, compare, evaluate and organize relevant information and materials; to debating and discussing relevant texts and issues in the class and in groups and producing oral and written work in English, and PowerPoint presentations, consistent with the topics of the course.
- Making judgements - Students will acquire the following skills relevant to making informed and autonomous judgements: by acquiring and developing comprehensive analytical and critical attitudes towards a diversity of cultural productions and literary texts, they will be better equipped to embrace and transfer intercultural and plural perspectives of analysis. The ability to draw comparisons and establish connections between the various contexts under scrutiny, and the habit to experiment with a diversity of approaches to selected issues consistent with the course will also be major assets in developing judgements skills.
· Communication skills - The course will enable students to enhance their ability to discuss selected topics, present their own work to an audience of peers and engage the audience in fruitful debates, use IT technology to support both academic study, research and networking.
Expected learning outcomes
Acquired knowledge and skills will match the multicultural mission of the Master Degree Course by allowing students to select, contextualise, critically analyse, evaluate and discuss the thematic threads, the cultural practices, discourses and productions of selected English-speaking countries showing an awareness of their historical, political, social and cultural backgrounds. This will be done from a variety of perspectives and using the methodological approaches of Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Theory.
The acquisition of these skills will enable the students to draw comparisons and unravel the connections between a given Anglophone context, analysed in both its local and global dimensions, and their own culture and experiences, according to a cross-cultural perspective which, in line with the overall objectives of Lingue e Culture per la Comunicazione e la Cooperazione Internazionale, will enhance their ability to compare and assess different histories, ideologies, claims, cultural practices, and the way they offer thoughtful responses to the main issues of the present. Through active participation and independent work, students will develop skills which will help them undertake further study with a higher degree of intellectual curiosity, autonomy, and ability to discriminate, transfer the acquired skills to related fields of analysis and apply multiple methodologies and a consistent intercultural approach to their dissertation and post-graduate research.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Course syllabus
The course aims to provide students with an inter- and cross-cultural awareness, as well as to enhance their critical knowledge and understanding of these themes in a postcolonial perspective which will help them to highlight the relations among culture(s), identities, beliefs, ideologies, literatures, genres, social and discursive practices along a non-Eurocentric perspective.

After a methodological introduction and a brief overview of South African history, the first module of the course will focus on the politics, ethics, discourse and culture of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its role in the healing of past atrocities and the tentative construction of a reconciled South Africa. Against the backcloth of the country's oppressive racist past and its still controversial and problematic present, the syllabus will then address the role of public discourses, national debates, artwork representations and, more generally, cultural politics in mediating new versions of public memory and a shareable, though still divisive and provisional, national narrative and cultural identity.

The second module of the course will focus on, and provide an analysis of, Zoë Wicomb's beautifully textured novel Playing in the Light, with its haunting history of racial erasure and skilful mapping of the painful negotiations implied in South Africa's unparalleled collective effort to re-network the national community along non-racist, non-discriminatory lines in the aftermath of apartheid. Special attention will be paid to the restorative role of memory and storytelling in the making of a new, shareable cultural identity and in facing the challenges of a still difficult present. An exquisitely nuanced and perceptive take on apartheid's discriminatory culture from the perspective of a white South African author will be also explored through Elleke Boehmer's compelling short stories in Sharmilla and Other Portraits.
Prerequisites for admission
Students are expected to have a good command of English, as lectures, films, texts and debates will be in that language. Lectures by guest speakers may be in Italian. Students from other Universities or Degree Courses who do not have a background in Cultural Studies may read: Roberto Pedretti, Itala Vivan, Dalla Lambretta allo skateboard. Teorie e storia delle culture giovanili britanniche (1950-2000), Milano, Unicopli 2009 (or, in English, Gary Hall, Clare Birchall, eds., New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory, University of Georgia Press, 2006).
Teaching methods
The lectures will mainly rely on whole-class teaching (including internet usage, online material and articles, films, slides, talks by guest speakers moderated by the course lecturers, discussion sessions with the participation of the students). Group work and students' autonomous productions and commentary on essays and additional material will be highly encouraged and actively pursued.
Teaching Resources
· The bibliography of the first module consists in 3 compulsory essays, plus 1 essay to be freely selected from the following list, so as to further the individual interests of the students:

Compulsory essays:
· Posel, Deborah, "History as Confession: The Case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission", Public Culture, vol. 20, n. 1, 2008, pp. 119-141.

· Farred, Grant, "The black intellectual's work is never done: a critique of the discourse of reconciliation in South Africa", in «Postcolonial Studies», VII (2004), n. 1, pp. 113-123.

· Goodman, Tanya, Setting the Stage: A Cultural Approach to the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission, in «Yale Journal of Sociology», III (2003), pp. 77-92.

Essays available for individual selection:
· Itala Vivan, "Cultural Memory in Post-Apartheid South Africa through Old and New Museums", in Cities in Flux: Metropolitan Spaces in Literary and Visual Texts - Festschrift in Honour of Prof. em. Dr. Therese Steffen. Schweizerische Afrikastudien / Études Africaines Suisse, vol. 12, eds. Olivier Moreillon, Alan Muller and Lindy Stiebel. Vienna, LIT Verlag, 2017, pp. 123-143.

· Verdoolaege, Anneliese, "Dealing with a traumatic past: the victim hearings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and their reconciliation discourse", in Critical Discourse Studies, VI (2009), n. 4, pp. 297-309.

· Bick, Tenley, ""Horror histories: apartheid and the abject body in the work of Jane Alexander", African Art, dec. 2010, pp. 1-14.

· Charmaine Mceachern (1998): "Mapping the Memories: Politics, Place and Identity in the District Six Museum, Cape Town, Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 4:3, 499-521.

· Aghogho Akpome (2017) "Zones of indistinction" and visions of post-reconciliation South Africa in District 9, Safundi, 18:1, 85-97

Plus: All the slides and files made available on the Ariel website of the course (

NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS will have to prepare the same bibliography as the others (Ariel files, lectures and films not included).


The bibliography of the second module, centred on literary representations, consists in a novel, a collection of short stories, 1 compulsory essay and 2 essays to be freely selected from a series of options listed below. The optional essays are meant to encourage the individual interests of the students:

· Zoë Wicomb, Playing in the Light, The New Press (or, Umuzi - Random House), 2006. (novel). [Italian translation, In piena luce (transl. by Francesca Romana Paci and Angela Tiziana Tarantini), La Tartaruga edizioni, 2009]. Students must read the English version.

· Elleke Boehmer, Sharmilla and Other Portraits, Jacana Media, 2010 (excluding the short stories "Khaya"; "Air India"; "Fado in Lissabon"; "Ginger"; "For Love"; "Sharmilla"; "Fold"). [Should the English version be unavailable, students are welcome to prepare the Italian translation: Boehmer, Elleke, La ragazza che parlava zulu e altri racconti, Roma, Historica, 2019, with an introduction by Claudia Gualtieri).

Compulsory essay:
· Lidia De Michelis, "Houses, Memory and the Nightmares of Identity in Zoë Wicomb's Playing in the Light", European Journal of English Studies, 16.1, 2012, 69-79.

· Plus 2 additional essays to be selected from the following list:
· Van der Vlies, A. "The Archive, the Spectral, and Narrative Responsibility in Zoë Wicomb's Playing in the Light." Journal of Southern African Studies 36.3 (2010): 583-98.
· David Hoegberg (2018): "Building new selves: identity, "Passing," and intertextuality in Zoë Wicomb's Playing in the Light", Safundi, DOI:10.1080/17533171.2018.1453977 Early online pp. 1-21.
· Meg Samuelson, "Oceanic Histories and Protean Poetics: The Surge of the Sea in Zoë Wicomb's Fiction." Journal of Southern African Studies 36.3 (2010): 543-57.

*Plus all the slides and files made available on the Ariel website of the course (

NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS will have to prepare the same bibliography as the others (Ariel files, lectures and films not included).
As an alternative, the STUDENTS UNABLE TO ATTEND may prepare all the short stories of Sharmilla and Other Portraits instead of the two additional essays listed in the second section of the course.
N.B.: *Most of the essays are available freely through the internet or the University Library online periodicals division. (Don't forget to log in!).

Suggestions for reference and further readings:

For a background in South African history and culture, students may refer to:

· Nigel Worden, The Making of Modern South Africa, Oxford: Blackwell, 2a edizione o successive;
· Mario Zamponi, Breve storia del Sudafrica. Dalla segregazione alla democrazia. Roma, Carocci, 2009;
· De Michelis L., C. Gualtieri, R. Pedretti, I. Vivan (a cura di), Prisma Sudafrica. La nazione arcobaleno a vent'anni dalla liberazione (1990-2010), Firenze, Le Lettere, 2012).
Assessment methods and Criteria
The final exam will consist of a critical and detailed oral discussion on all the texts, files and other material included in the programme. Students are to take the exam in English, and are required to demonstrate their full knowledge of the texts and the syllabus, and to be able to contextualise, analyse, evaluate and discuss them critically in the light of the analytical tools and cultural studies approach developed during the course. Building on the information and bibliography provided during the course, they must be able, as well, to show a sufficient awareness of the historical and cultural background of the country, or countries, discussed in the syllabus.

Towards the end of the course there will be an optional written test (in Italian, lasting two hours) for the students who attended the course on a regular basis. Foreign students (and the students who choose to do so) will be able to take the test in English, if they wish. It will be centred on the essays, films and online files and presentations provided during the first module and made available on the Ariel website of the course. It will consist of a few open questions (usually 5, unless otherwise stated), centred on a series of texts which will be listed on Ariel shortly before the exam. The results of the test will be published on the Ariel website of the course. Passing this test will allow the students to concentrate mostly on the second module for their final oral exam. Students are free not to take this test and discuss the whole programme in their final oral exam. Students attending the course may choose, on request and after contacting their professor, to prepare a presentation on topics pertaining to the issues explored in the first part, but not included among the prescribed readings, instead of preparing the essays, slides and files included in the same section.

For students attending the course who will choose to take the written test, the mark of the final exam (on as scale of 30) will be a combination of the marks obtained in the written test, the evaluation of their active participation in the course (plus, on a voluntary basis, their autonomous productions), and the result of the final oral discussion.
Students attending the course who will choose not to take the written test will have to discuss in the final oral exam the whole programme (essays, online files, novels, autonomous productions).

For students unable to attend the course, the final exam will be a critical oral discussion of the whole programme (including the additional and/or alternative material for students not attending the course listed in this programme as an option). Non-attending students are welcome to refer to their lecturers for questions and further comment about the contents and programme of the course during office hours or by email. The same applies to foreign students in need of individual advise.

Excellence (30 and honours) will be awarded to students who will show deep understanding of the methodological approach, will adopt originality of presentation, and will be able to critically connect events, texts, and cultural practices, analysed in both their local and global dimensions, according to the cross-cultural perspective prioritized by our Master Degree Course.

Students who want to earn only 3 CREDITS have to prepare the programme and bibliography of the first module of the course, centred on theory and essays. If they are more interested in fiction,and would like to prepare the programme of the second module, they are required to contact their professor by email or in person.
Teaching Unit 1
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Teaching Unit 2
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours