*If you are interested in taking this course, please get in touch with the instructor beforehand.
In this senior colloquium, we will read tragic works of postcolonial literature. By doing this, we will develop an attentiveness to the poetic recourse that postcolonial writers take when they grasp, in the spirit of Antigone, how the urgent requirements of mourning shape the formulation of politics and resistance. We will study the emergence of tragedy as a dramatic, narrative, and philosophical form in postcolonial literature with a special focus on the work of Afro-diasporic writers. Much attention has been paid to the tragic content of postcolonial literary works (for example, to the prevailing themes of displacement, suffering, and catastrophe) as well as to adaptations of primarily Greek and Shakespearean tragedies (for example, Wole Soyinka’s The Bacchae of Euripides, Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest, Tayeb Salih’s A Season of Migration to the North). Nevertheless, more aesthetically oriented literary critical work is necessary to comprehend neglected formal aspects of the modern tragedies that abound in the postcolonial canon, even and especially when the literary works in question are not explicitly marked as tragedies. Attending to these overlooked formal dimensions, this colloquium will seek for ways to study the buried politics within the development of a transnational and transhistorical modern tragedy, a genre that is not a mere imitation of Western tragedy but a unique critical response to imperialism’s violence.
As this is a Senior Colloquium, students will be expected to guide and shape the direction of our investigation. Students are encouraged to synthesize the knowledge they have gained in previous English Studies courses and to reflect critically on their research and writing skills. Although readings will be provided, students are expected to choose their own readings (in consultation with the instructor) concerning the topic at hand, which they will then share with the rest of the class. The writing assignment for this course is a 20-page research paper. The course has been designed to enable students to work toward this final assignment in stages through shorter writing projects. The standard of the research paper will need to be that of a writing sample one includes in a graduate school application.
We will meet for two hours every Wednesday, so attendance is mandatory. This is a student-led class, so there will be no formal lectures. Familiarity with the topic under discussion is mandatory, so please go over at least some of the readings listed in the “Texts” section. During the first three weeks of the class, we will focus on readings assigned by the instructor. After these readings are completed, students will be expected to pick the readings for the rest of the semester in consultation with the instructor. Every three weeks (so four times in the semester) we will spend time discussing the outcome of the shorter writing assignments that students will use to systematically write the final research paper.
50% Class discussion, reading contributions, and collaboration
50% Writing assignment (20-page research paper, which will be broken into 4 shorter writing assignments)
NB: We will not be reading all the titles listed, but students should be aware that our discussion of the topic at hand is heavily influenced by the works listed below.
Aimé Césaire, “Poetry and Knowledge,” 1945
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1952
Sylvia Wynter, “Ethno or Socio Poetics,” 1976
Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature, and the African World, 1976
-----, Art, Dialogue, and Outrage: Essays on Literature and Culture, 1988
Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, 1990
Derek Walcott, What the Twilight Says, 1998
Dionne Brand, A Map to The Door of No Return, 2001
Timothy Reiss, Against Autonomy, 2002
David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity, 2004
-----, Omens of Adversity, 2014
Alberto Toscano, “Politics in a Tragic Key,” 2013
Olga Taxidou, Tragedy, Modernity, Mourning, 2004
Moira Fradinger, Binding Violence, 2010
Ato Quayson, Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature, 2021