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Assessed Essay 2 2021-22


New Literatures in English: Second Assessed Essay


Essays are due during Term 3, Week 1. Late submissions will incur a penalty of 5 marks per day.

Note: Please consult the Department website and/or the Student Handbook for guidance on essay submission on Tabula and penalties for exceeding the word limit and for late submission.

Essays should be presented in accordance with departmental guidelines and will be marked according to the standard departmental marking criteria.


For all bibliographic citations, primary and secondary, use the MLA Guidelines, a link to which is provided on the Department webpage for Undergraduate Studies.

Please also make note of the Departmental regulations on Plagiarism.



The second assessed essay rubric requires you to write on two texts from Term 2. This must also be the case when you are devising your own questions. Texts include novels and film.

Finalists are required to write a 3,000 word essay on a topic they devise on their own. They should feel free to draw on the topics set below. You can consult your individual tutors for further guidance.

Second years are required to write a 2,500 word essay and may choose from one of the topics listed below or devise a topic of their own:


In questions that are framed around a quotation, you are expected to engage with the quotation to set the frame of your discussion. However, you are not obliged to incorporate that specific work as one of your two texts or engage in any extensive contextualisation of it. Where relevant you may engage with further secondary criticism, but it is not compulsory for this essay.  



1.In his satirical essay “How to Write About Africa”, Binyawanga lists a string of “Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.” Write an essay on any two texts of your choice regarding stereotypes and taboos about Africans that are challenged or broken in them.


2.In her 2013 TED talk Chimamanda Adichie spoke about “the danger of a single story”. Using any two texts from the module, explore the use and significance of multiple stories and story-tellers in your texts.


3.“To tell a story is to cast shadows over the flame. All that the world reveals is, in that very instant, consumed by silence” (Confession of the Lioness). Write an essay exploring the relationship between words and silence, with reference to any two texts of your choice.


4.“Those versions of whiteness that produced men like Rhodes must be recalled and de-commissioned if we have to put history to rest, free ourselves from our own entrapment in white mythologies and open a future for all here and now” (Mbembe, “Decolonising Knowledge and the Question of the Archive”). Write an essay exploring the representation of race and colonialism in any two texts of your choice.


5. ‘ It’s the Englishness,’ she said. ‘It’ll kill them all if they aren’t careful,’ and she snorted, ‘Look at them. That boy Chido can hardly speak a word of his own mother’s tongue and, you’ll see, his children will be worse. Running around with that white one, isn’t he, the missionary’s daughter.’ (Nervous Conditions) Write an essay on ‘mother tongue’ in African literature and/or cinema.


6. Like all African (post) colonies, South Africa lacks what Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff call "hyphen-nation": the intimate nexus of nation and state never did and probably never will exist in such an endemically polycultural society. For this reason alone, the state, rather than the nation, may emerge as the more vital and enduring framework for cultural analysis. (Rita Barnard) What role does the state play in the post-colonial African narratives?


7. ‘Yes, sah. It will be part of a big book. It will take me many more years to finish it and I will call it “Narratives of the Life of a Country”.’ (Half of a Yellow Sun) Write an essay on texts and inter-textuality in African writing and/or cinema.


8. One might say, in sum, that Fugard's Tsotsi is not so much a Bildungsroman - not even what Joseph Slaughter would call a "dis-sensual" one - as a kind of proto-Bildungsroman.” (Rita Barnard) Write on any two texts that uses the Bildungsroman genre to tell African stories.


9. “But that is the tragedy of our present time, a tragedy repeated daily, nightly, in this city [….] the guns happen to be there.” (The House Gun) How is violence represented in African writing and/or cinema?


10. “In We Need New Names, I was writing about things that were going on at home, so it was my quiet way of saying, “we need new names, you can remove names, we need a new president, new ways of thinking of ourselves, new ways of being.” (NoViolet Bulaweyo) How is renewal or becoming new imagined in African narratives?