Anglophone Literatures

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course investigates some pivotal aspects of African and Indian literatures, in order to involve students in deep critical analyses of the literary texts proposed, supported by the knowledge of history and of local culture. The aim of the course is to take students beyond the traditional boundaries of the British/Irish canon to discover rich and fascinating Anglophone literary traditions in Africa and Asia; accordingly, the programme introduces some of the most relevant non-English writers and some key issues in the current debate on global English literature.
The active participation of students will be promoted through presentations and paper submissions, in order to stimulate and enhance their critical and argumentative skills (both oral and written).
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students will have a sound knowledge of the historical, cultural and literary background of the investigated cultural and geographical areas. They will be able to carry out in-depth textual and critical analyses of the literary works listed in the syllabus, relying on the critical studies provided in the reading list. They will also acquire critical tools to carry out an independent critical assessment of the literary texts and of the cultural issues dealt with in class, taking into consideration the theoretical and critical perspectives introduced and discussed during the course.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
The course is entitled Real, Realistic, Realism? The Narrative Adventure of Anglophone Literatures, and it consists of the following didactic units:
A) Narrative Realism and its Betrayal in 20th-Century South African Literature (Prof. Iannaccaro)
B) Playing with the Reader: South African Contemporary Literature (Prof. Iannaccaro)
C) Human Migration in South Asia from Reality to Realism (Prof. Vescovi)
Unit A deals with literary texts ranging from the first decades of the XX century to the 1970s. It investigates both novels and short stories in order to identify (together with students) the textual strategies employed to create the impression of 'realism' in the reader, and the ways in which the "reality effect" is unmasked and betrayed.
Unit B covers the last decades of the XX and the first years of the XXI century; the analysis of contemporary literature, and of the metatextual techniques employed, allows to investigate the way in which writers 'play' with their readers - a literary game which is far from escapist or uncommitted; on the contrary, it is deeply immersed in historical reality and in the cultural and political challenges of its time.
Unit C will consider three novelists who, at different times, challenged the established modes of the realistic novel exploring new poetics and writing techniques. The chosen authors are connected to the Indian subcontinent and can be considered cosmopolitan writers. Furthermore, they all tell stories of migration (internal or between continents), which allows a more effective comparison among the novels. Migration is the theme chosen for the 2020 annual Students' Conference to be held in June, and it will be discussed also in other literature courses.

Course attendance is highly recommended. Those who cannot attend classes are invited to the first lesson, in which information regarding the course syllabus and the exam will be provided.
The course bears 6/9 credits. Students wishing to acquire only 6 credits will study Units A and B.
The course syllabus is valid until September 2021.
Prerequisites for admission
The course is addressed to graduate students, and it is held in English. Therefore, a good knowledge of the English language is required, in order to be able to understand complex literary and/or critical texts. A general knowledge of the major authors and currents of English literature is taken for granted.
Teaching methods
Teaching methods: lectures with close reading, analysis and contextualisation of the works in the reading list; constant engagement of students in the analytical and critical process of learning; "Students lecturers": the possibility to present to the class a topic/text chosen from the reading list, and/or to be the 'respondent' of someone else's presentation.
Teaching Resources
General bibliography (for the three didactic units)
All of the following texts can be found in an English version:
Roman Jakobson, "Il realismo nell'arte", in Tzvetan Todorov (a cura di), I Formalisti Russi, Einaudi, 1968, pp. 97-107 (Biblioteca di Anglistica). Also available on the course website as: Roman Jakobson, "On Realism in Art".
Roland Barthes, "L'effetto di reale", in Il brusio della lingua, Einaudi, 1988, pp. 151-159 (Biblioteche di Filosofia e di Scienze antichità filologia moderna) in English, free online: "The Reality Effect", › uploads › sites › 2017/08.
Franco Moretti, "Il secolo serio", in Il romanzo, Vol. 1, parte quarta, Einaudi, 2001, pp. 689-725 (Biblioteca di Anglistica). Available also as "The Serious Century: Vermeer to Austen", in The Novel vol. 1, ed. by Franco Moretti, Princeton University Press.

Unit A
Sarah Gertrude Millin, God's Stepchildren (1924)
Bessie Head, Maru (1971)
Mtutuzeli Matshoba, "A Glimpse of Slavery" (1979)
André Brink, A Dry White Season (1979)

Critical bibliography
Sol T. Plaatje, "'Introduction' and 'A Retrospect'", in Native Life in South Africa (1930), Longman, 1987, pp. iv-xv, e 1-14 (Ariel platform).
Peter Blair, "That 'Ugly Word': Miscegenation and the Novel in Preapartheid South Africa", Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 49, n. 3, 2003. (Unimi database).
Khadidiatou Diallo, "Disclosing the Hidden: The Narration of Thoughts in Bessie Head's Maru", in Commonwealth: Essays and Studies, vol. 34 no. 2, 2012, pp- 31-42. (Unimi database).
André Brink, "After Soweto" (1976), in Mapmakers. Writing in a State of Siege, Faber and Faber, 1983. (Ariel platform).

Unit B
Nadine Gordimer, "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off"; "Once Upon a Time"; "Some are Born to Sweet Delight" (in Jump and other Stories, 1991)
Zoë Wicomb, You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town (1987). The Feminist Press edition, with an Introduction by Marcia Wright and an Afterword by Carol Sicherman. This edition provides a valuable historical Introduction and a useful Literary Afterword.
J.M. Cotzee, "Realism" (in Elizabeth Costello, 2003)
Zakes Mda, The Whale Caller (2005)

Critical bibliography
Graham Huggan, "Echoes from Elsewhere: Gordimer's Short Fiction as Social Critique", Research in African Literatures, Vol. 25, no. 1, 1994, pp. 61-73. (Unimi database)
Dorothy Driver, "The Struggle Over the Sign. Writing and History in Zoë Wicomb's Art", Journal of Southern African Studies, 36:3, 2010, pp. 523-542. (Unimi database)
Giuliana Iannaccaro, "Elizabeth Costello", in J.M. Coetzee, Firenze, Le Lettere, 2009, pp. 213-17. (Anglistica Library)
Derek A. Barker, "Escaping the Tyranny of Magic Realism? A Discussion of the Term in Relation to the Novels of Zakes Mda", Postcolonial Text, 4, n. 2, 2008. (Unimi database)

Unit C
V.S. Naipaul, In a Free State, Picador.
Neel Mukherjee, In a State of Freedom, Chatto, 2018.
Amitav Ghosh, Gun Island, John Murray, 2019.

Critical bibliography
Vescovi, Alessandro. "The Conversational Quality of Literature: An Interview with Neel Mukherjee." Ariel: A
Review of International English Literature 50.2 (2019): 219-238. (Available online)
Michael Gorra, A Novel That Echoes Naipaul, Exploring the Limits of Freedom, NYT…
Elena Spandri, "Una poetica per l'urgenza".
Further readings will be available on the course website.

Ariel online platform (course website)
All students are expected to check on the Ariel online platform regularly (, as new material will be uploaded during the course. The website also contains general information on the course.
Please do not use e-mail to require information that may be found elsewhere (,,

Non-attending students syllabus (Units A and B)
ALL WORKS INDICATED ABOVE FOR ATTENDING STUDENTS, and any materiel uploaded on the online Ariel platform.
In addition:
Students are required to read up individually on South African history from the 17th century to the present.
Suggested references:
The Cambridge History of South Africa / edited by Carolyn Hamilton, Bernard K. Mbenga, Robert Ross, 2 vols, 2010-11. (Scienze della Storia Library).
Thompson, Leonard, A History of South Africa. Revised Edition, New Haven and London, Yale U.P., 1995 (3rd edition, 2000). (Scienze Politiche Library).
South African History Online (SAHO)
To study the literary works listed above, we will make use of narratological categories. Non-attending students are required to study a good textbook on narratology and to be able to use it to analyse the literary texts in the reading list.
Particularly useful are the critical essays contained in: The Cambridge History of South African Literature, ed. by D. Attwell and D. Attridge, Cambridge U.P., 2012. (Anglistica Library). This volume can be used to deepen one's knowledge of authors, works, cultural contexts, and literary trends.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Oral exam: It consists in an oral interview assessed in thirtieths; 18/30 is the pass score.
The interview will ascertain: the student's sound knowledge of the historical, cultural and literary background of the investigated geographical and cultural areas; their ability to carry out in-depth textual and critical analyses of the literary works in the reading list, relying on the critical studies provided; their capacity to engage in an independent critical assessment of the literary texts and of the cultural issues dealt with in class, taking into consideration the theoretical and critical perspectives introduced and discussed during the course.
The final score is expressed in thirtieths; students may accept or reject the mark (in that case the record will be "ritirato", and they will have to take the whole exam again in a future session).
The language of the exam is English.

International or Erasmus incoming students are kindly requested to contact the teacher. Also students with any disabilities should contact the teacher in order to agree on alternative examination methods, in agreement with the competent office.

To take the exam, it is mandatory to bring along all literary texts listed in this syllabus.
Unita' didattica A
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica B
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica C
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Professor: Vescovi Alessandro
Wednesday, 15:30-18:30, either in person or on Teams. Please send me a mail in advance to make an appointment.
Piazza S. Alessandro 1, Anglistica; or Microsoft Teams Platform
Thursday between 9.00 a.m. and 12.00. Please use the form to reserve a position
Microsoft Teams. For a different arrangement please see the form