Critical Essay Topic 1

On Tuesday, October 24th, we will be doing an in-class workshop about your first Critical Essay assignment. The workshop will serve as a brainstorming session, in which the class as a whole can help you focus your topic as well as formulate a thesis statement.

For this blog post, please give the class some insight into your ideas for the Critical Essay. Offer anywhere from 1 to 3 topics you are interested in writing about, as well as a discussion about why you are interested in them. If you offer more than 1 topic for discussion, please indicate which topic you are MOST excited about.

You might also consider including a possible thesis statement you would use for your chosen topic(s). Remember that a thesis statement contains two parts: Main Point + Purpose.

  • Main Point: What is the essay about? What will be developed in the body paragraphs?
  • Purpose: Why does this essay matter? Why is this topic important to discuss in the first place?

The stronger and more developed your thesis statement is, the more likely your essay will also be developed thoroughly and thoughtfully (as opposed to surface-level analysis).

This post is due before class begins on Tuesday, October 24th.

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Blog #6: Purple Hibiscus (Parts 3 & 4)

On Thursday, October 19th, we will be concluding our discussion of Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.

So far this semester, you’ve been introduced to the following reading lenses/literary theories:

  • Humanism
  • Postmodernism
  • Feminism
  • Postcolonialism

Your assignment this week is to offer a brief analysis of Purple Hibiscus through a specific reading lens/theory. I would like you to choose ONE of the above lenses for your analysis. Then offer a discussion of at least THREE different elements from the novel that you think would be important for the audience to notice if/when analyzing the text through this lens. Elements from the novel could include (but are not limited to):

  • Characters
  • Settings
  • Symbols
  • Motifs
  • Scenes/Plot Points
  • Writing Style (which might include word choice, sentence structure, organization, or any other stylistic choices made by Adichie when composing the text)

In your discussion of the above points, make sure to offer your thought process about why/how the elements you’ve chosen are important to analyze based on the specific reading lens. Remember: If you don’t know why it’s important, then you shouldn’t be writing about it in the first place.

This post is due before class begins on Thursday, October 19th.

 

Blog #5: Purple Hibiscus (Part 2)

On Thursday, October 12th, we will be discussing Part 2: “Speaking With Our Spirits” of Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. As a reminder, here are the major themes/motifs brought up in class that you were asked to consider during your continued reading of this novel:

  • Colonialism & Nigerian Politics
  • Religion & Belief
  • Family
  • Freedom vs. Tyranny
  • Silence & Speech
  • Violence

Your assignment this week is to answer one of the discussion questions provided below in a new comment (please clarify the question number within your post). If the question you choose asks for a discussion about one or more of the overall theme(s) of the novel, I’d like you to make sure you reference one of the above points OR specifically bring up another theme you’ve found in your own reading and analysis.

Please make sure your comments are well-developed, especially showcasing your critical thinking skills, as explained in previous assignments.

This post is due before class begins on Thursday, October 12th.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The character of Eugene (Papa) becomes much more “human” as the children leave home. Even though we (as the audience) tend to have a clear opinion of him based the early chapters of the novel, what evidence does Adichie present that Eugene could, in fact, be seen as a loving father who only wants the best for his children? Offer at least one quotation/example to support this. Why do you think Adichie includes this evidence in her portrayal of Papa/Eugene?
  2. Whenever we hear about Aunty Ifeoma and Amaka in the early stage of this section, Kambili notices two things about them: their laughter, and their lipstick. What does this laughter symbolize? The lipstick, too, holds symbolism. What does this reveal about their role as women in the novel, as opposed to Kambili and her mother? What do these symbols reveal about one or more of the overall themes/motifs of the novel?
  3. At one point, Papa/Eugene boasts that his Kambili and Jaja are “not like those loud children people are raising these days, with no home training and no fear of God”; to which Ade Coker replies: “Imagine what the Standard would be if we were all quiet”. Why is quiet obedience a questionable virtue in a country where the truth needs to be spoken? In what ways is the refusal to be quiet dangerous?
  4. How does Father Amadi bring Kambili “to life” in this section? Why is her relationship with him so important? How does their relationship inform one or more of the overall theme(s) of the novel?
  5. How does the death of Papa-Nnukwu serve as a catalyst for the remainder of the action in the plot? Why do you think Adichie uses Papa-Nnukwu’s character as this catalyst? How does this inform one or more of the overall theme(s) of the novel?

 

Blog #4: Purple Hibiscus (Part 1)

On Thursday, October 5th, we will be starting our three-week discussion of Adichie’s novel Purple Hibiscus. Though you have been asked to read up until at least the first half of Part 2 this week, these questions are only discussing the beginning of the novel (Part 1). Your assignment this week is to answer one of the discussion questions provided below in a new comment (please clarify the question number within your reply).

Please make sure your comments are well-developed, especially showcasing your critical thinking skills, as explained in previous assignments.

This post is due before class begins on Thursday, October 5th.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Compare/contrast the way Mama and Papa interact with their children (using specific examples from the novel). What effect(s) do their parents have on Kambili and Jaja? Why is this important to notice?
  2. What does the glass étagère and the ceramic ballet figurines symbolize to each of the various characters in the family (Kambili, Mama, Papa, and Jaja)?
  3. Adichie spends much of the first part of this novel describing the plants and the landscape from Kambili’s perspective. Why do you think she does this? How does this inform the overall theme(s) of the novel so far?
  4. In what we’ve read already, Adichie brings up a discussion of hibiscus plants early on (in Part 1, Kambili muses on the red hibiscus, and she briefly brings up the purple hibiscus in the beginning of Part 2 as well). From what you’ve read so far,  what might the hibiscus symbolize in the story? How do you know?
  5. What is the significance of the passage where Papa names the Catholic Mary “Our Lady, Shield of the Nigerian People”? What does this passage reveal about Papa’s character? Why is it important to point this out?

Blog #3: Leila Aboulela “Souvenirs”

On Thursday, September 28th, we will be discussing the short story “Souvenirs” by Leila Aboulela. Your assignment this week is to answer one of the discussion questions provided below in a new comment (please clarify the question number within your reply).

Please make sure your comments are well-developed, especially showcasing your critical thinking skills, as explained in previous assignments.

This post is due before class begins on Thursday, September 28th.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what way(s) does this story fit into the Postmodern movement (or does it fit at all)?
  2. One of the themes of this story is the acceptance vs. rejection of other cultures into (or away from) one’s own culture. What are some examples of this theme? Do the examples seem to be positive or negative? In what ways?
  3. In this story, the protagonist, Yassir, has a specific “epiphany” moment (which is a common motif in most literature). What was his epiphany? Why was it important? What does the epiphany reveal about the overall theme/message of the story?
  4. What significance does Aboulela place on names within this story? How does the significance of names reveal the overall theme/message of the story?
  5. On pg 162, Aboulela points out that Yassir does not take any photographs. Why do you think this is significant? What does this reveal about how Yassir views himself and/or his home country?
  6. Though written in 3rd Person, the major point of view for the story is Yassir’s. Do you think it is problematic for a female writer to represent a story from a man’s point of view? Why or why not?

Blog #2: We Should All Be Feminists

On Tuesday, September 19th, we will be discussing the text “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The PDF file you have been provided with is a written/modified version of Adichie’s TED Talk given in the UK in 2012. If you would like to view the original talk (instead of OR in addition to the readings), you may do so by following this link: Adichie TED Talk  (the video is about 30 min. long).

For this post, I am providing you with modified discussion questions created for this TED Talk by LeanIn.Org. Your assignment this week is to choose ONE of the following options:

  1. You may answer one of the discussion questions provided below in a new comment (please clarify the question number within your reply).
    OR
  2. You may provide a reply/comment to one of your classmate’s responses.

Please make sure your comments/replies are well-developed, especially showcasing your critical thinking skills. In other words, don’t just state your opinion/answer…take time to discuss WHY you have that opinion or have come to that conclusion.

This post is due before class begins on Tuesday, September 19th.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did hearing Adichie’s definition of a feminist as “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” change whether or not you identify as a feminist? What would you add or edit in her definition and why?
  2. Adichie had several stories from her past that are common among many women living and working today. Did you relate to parts of her journey (for example, her friend who said things used to be bad for women but aren’t anymore; her experience at the parking lot where a worker thanked her male companion for the tip she gave him; or her noticing that the higher she went in her profession, the fewer women were working alongside her)?
  3. Adichie makes the point that the concept of gender tells us how we “should” be in society. What messages do we send about how women “should” behave versus how men “should” behave? How do you think those expectations affect us? Is there anything that can be done to alter these messages and/or expectations?
  4. Adichie makes the point that culture does not make people, people make culture. Do you agree with her (why/why not)? What’s one aspect of your culture that you’d like to change for the better?
  5. What’s one key takeaway from the text that you’d like to share with someone else? With whom would you share it and why?

Blog #1: Introductions

For your first assignment, I would like you to take a moment to introduce yourself to me and to your classmates. Please comment on this post and include a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, what you’re studying, and anything else unique or interesting about yourself! I’ll start:

My name is Dr. Michelle Hansen. I’m originally from Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. I have my B.A. in Humanities, my M.A. in English, and my Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in U.S. Fiction. My area of expertise is Gothic/Horror Fiction & Film, so I get to read scary books and watch scary movies and call it research. Before coming to AUI, I taught at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas and New Mexico State University – Carlsbad. This is my 10th (!!) year of teaching and my 4th year at AUI. Some fun things about me are that I’m obsessed with Disneyland and I love to watch television in my free time. I have a 5-year-old daughter named Lilly, who is crazy and wonderful.

Okay, now it’s your turn…please post a short introduction in the comments below. This is due BEFORE class begins on Tuesday, September 12th.

Welcome!

Hello and Welcome to LIT 3371 – African Literature! The purpose of the blog is to stimulate discussion both in and out of class, as well as to work collaboratively when confronting difficult pieces of writing. You are also welcome to use the blog to voice any confusion or concerns you have as they arise.

You will also be asked to post responses to discussion questions throughout this semester (each due date for your posts will be listed in the Reading & Assignment Schedule). Please make sure you read directions carefully before posting your comments on the thread. When responding/commenting, please be respectful and professional in your tone, language, and content.

I am looking forward to getting to know you and working with you this semester!

Dr. Hansen