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African Languages and Literature

Administrative Unit:African Languages and Literature
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:M.A., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.A., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Ph.D. Minor

Faculty: Professors Cowell (Arabic language, linguistics, literature, and culture), Hauner (Swahili language and literature, African linguistics, language planning), Olaniyan (African and African diaspora literature, literary theory, popular culture), Scheub (African oral traditions and modern literature), Schleicher (Yoruba language and culture, African linguistics and culture, second language acquisition), Songolo (African and Francophone literatures, African and Francophone cinema, literary theory); Associate Professor Al-Ghadeer (Arabic language, literature, and critical theory); Assistant Professors Ofori (Akan/Twi language, African linguistics), Waliaula (African literature, literary theory) 


The mission of the Department of African Languages and Literature is to provide research and teaching in the areas of African languages, linguistics, literature, and oral traditions. Emphasis is on the development and application of analytical and methodological tools that will enable students to work effectively in these four areas. The areas are not considered mutually exclusive: the interconnections of these disciplines are studied closely and creatively.

The department is the only one of its kind in the United States; it offers curricular leading to both the master of arts degree and the doctor of philosophy degree. Candidates in the program have come from all over the world, including Africa.

Ph.D. Minor 

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in other departments may obtain a minor in African languages and literature. The requirements are:

  1. Minimum of 12 credits in African languages and literature at the graduate level including:
    • African 402 Theory of African Literature
    • African 501 Structure and Analysis of African Languages
    • One seminar
    • One other course chosen in consultation with the director of graduate studies
  2. Reading proficiency in an African language
  3. GPA of 3.5 or better in the courses taken for the minor field


Applicants should have a minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (out of a possible 4.0), though special cases may be considered for probationary admission. In addition to the online application, the department requires a transcript of previous university records, a statement giving reasons for wishing to pursue graduate study in the department, and three letters of recommendation. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are needed for fellowship applicants, but are not otherwise required for admission. There is no application deadline, but it is recommended that materials be submitted as early as possible before the intended date of entry.

Upon receipt of confirmation of admission, applicants must contact the department office to arrange for consultation on their first-year program. In some cases, a waiver of one or more requirements may be granted for previous work, on the applicant's petition. Applicants who have not taken an undergraduate major in African languages and literature, or who are judged by the department to have deficiencies, may be assigned additional course work.

For those completing an M.A. in the department, admission to the Ph.D. program is determined by the M.A. committee upon successful defense of the M.A. thesis, and with consideration of performance in M.A. course work.

For more information: Department Administrator, Department of African Languages and Literature, 1410 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-2487; fax 608-265-4151; afrlang@mailplus.wisc.edu; african.lss.wisc.edu/all.