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African Experience in Drama & Performance




Mr V. Mtyende (OMB 107)
Offered:  First semester only
4 seminars per week
30 places
Venue:  OMB Room 26


It is clearly necessary to reach some rough agreement about what is to count as ‘drama’…. Most important is the idea of enactment, of representation through actors who imitate persons and events. This is also usually associated with other elements, appearing to a greater or lesser degree at different times or places: linguistic content; plot; the represented interaction of several characters; specialized scenery, etc; often music; and – of particular importance in most African performances – dance.
Ruth Finnegan

Do you agree with Finnegan’s view of what constitutes drama? Can it be applicable to different geopolitical settings? Is it too narrow a definition or too broad? These are some of the questions this module aims to tease out. In the process we will also explore the genre of drama, more generally defined, and African drama & performance in particular. The module, therefore, intends to explore the development of drama & performance in Africa from pre-colonial times to the more contemporary forms of this literary genre. Though the discussions will be broad-ranging, the selection of primary texts will be limited to modern & contemporary African playwrights. The selection of texts will cover north, west, east and southern African regions. This will enable students to familiarise themselves with various socio-cultural factors, features, forms and uses of language as portrayed in various African plays. Since this is a literature module rather than a theatre one, students will be required to engage in critical and close reading of specific dramatic texts so as to develop the skills and confidence needed to read, discuss and write about drama effectively and with understanding.


The class mark will count 50% of the final mark, and will be made up of a combination of essays, tests, in-class writing assignments and oral presentations. There will be a three-hour final exam which will count for the remaining 50% of the mark for the course.

Prescribed texts

Biodun Jeyifo (ed.) Modern African Drama: A Norton Critical Edition W.W. Norton & Co.
Mohammed ben Abdallah The Trial of Mallam Ilya Departmental Handout
Additional material will be provided and costs added to the course fees.

Who is this course for?

The course should be of interest to anyone who enjoys and is interested in drama and wishes to improve his or her skills in reading, analysing, and discussing dramatic texts/plays. It should also be of use to students considering a career in teaching, journalism, editing, acting, writing, producing & directing plays and/or involvement in cross-cultural and community work.

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