In this iteration of the “Postcolonial Readings” seminar, we focus on one of the most consequential literary genres: the postcolonial Bildungsroman, a term for what is often called the coming-of-age novel. The Bildungsroman’s beginnings can be traced to late-eighteenth-century Germany, and our task in this class is to investigate what happens to the genre when it travels to the postcolonial world. It has been argued that the genre was never really coherent to begin with (Bakhtin), and so a major part of this class will investigate how this non-coherency within the genre is turned into an opportunity for experimentation by postcolonial writers. More often than not, and unlike their European counterparts, the protagonists of the postcolonial Bildungsroman come of age by struggling with colonial systems of knowledge or by inheriting the tenets of these systems even after formal colonization ends. Through the study of a collection of novels, we will look at how postcolonial writers avail themselves of the Bildungsroman in order to question forms of colonial knowledge and selfhood, explore ways of unknowing and unlearning dominant models of self-making, and develop methods of representing the life-worlds of those who come of age not by mastering the self but rather by stepping outside the confines of mastery itself.
- Gain a better understanding of how the narration of the self occurs in the postcolonial novel.
- Study how self-narration engages with conceptions of citizenship, subjecthood, and colonial education.
- Engage theories of the novel, particularly in the context of postcolonial studies.
- Develop a vigilance for how the legacies of colonial violence continue to affect the articulation of the self in postcolonial contexts
- Improve their literary analysis skills, critical reading, thinking, and writing skills, as well as research and oral presentation skills.
3 hours a week. Class meetings will consist of class discussion, mini-lectures, writing workshops, student-led presentations, and impromptu writing exercises. Reading guides and questions will be provided in class in order to facilitate class discussions. Students will be reading novels and extracts from theoretical works. Because we meet only once a week, attendance is mandatory. Students should organize their reading schedules carefully as high-quality class discussions depend upon completing the readings assigned each week
100% by coursework
Participation (includes attendance, class and group discussion, student-led presentations) 25%
A short, close-reading paper 25%
An annotated bibliography 20%
A research paper 30%
- Chinua Achebe. No Longer at Ease (1960)
- Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines (1988)
- Johann Lee, Peculiar Chris (1992)
- Edwidge Danticat. Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013)
*A selection of theoretical readings will be uploaded to Moodle