This course explores the literary forms and strategies that writers inherit, rework, and newly invent in order to tell postcolonial stories. We will study literatures written in English from formerly colonized nations, and from places still experiencing forms of colonization. We will also examine key concepts and debates in postcolonial studies. Some questions we will consider include: What is, or was, colonialism? If it is over, what has taken its place? What literary forms and languages do decolonial and postcolonial writers use, and why? How do writers negotiate between colonial and indigenous cultural and literary traditions? How can a writer craft anti-colonial literature in the very language of the colonizer, and what role can translation play? How are literary form and politics related to one another? We will not arrive at final answers, but together we will develop familiarity with how writers and scholars have attempted to do justice to these difficult, complex questions.
Coursework will include reading canonical and contemporary works of postcolonial literature; writing creative and critical responses to our shared texts and to each other’s work; and participating in a semester-long conversation with each other about the role of literature, especially of the people who write and study it, in the contemporary globalized world.
- Become familiar with literary forms and strategies used by writers to explore the temporal and ideological continuum of colonialism, postcolonialism, and neocolonialism
- develop an understanding of the key terms of postcolonial studies and apply them relevantly to literary texts and genres
- explore and articulate how postcolonialism interacts with identity, class, gender, and race in the formerly colonized world and in the contemporary world more broadly
- improve their close reading and critical analysis skills
- Put those skills to use in independent writing projects in a variety of modes, creative and critical, that contribute to the ongoing conversation among postcolonial writers and scholars.
25% Participation: including attendance, active oral participation in class meetings, and weekly discussion board contributions. These may include responses to assigned readings; opportunities to practice critical writing skills like summarizing or integrating quotations; or brief creative prompts. Discussion board posts are informal, but please proofread them to make sure your ideas come across clearly.
20% Close Reading Paper (2-4 pages): in this assignment, you will generate a close reading of one of the primary texts we have read together, without the use of secondary sources. The goal is to draw your own insightful conclusions about the text.
20% Final Project Proposal and Annotated Bibliography (3-5 pages): a concise proposal describing your intended final project, accompanied by an annotated bibliography of 3 sources that will help you develop your thinking as you plan and execute the project.
35% Final Project (8-12 pages): Please choose between the following two options: 1) a creative imitation/invention of form, accompanied by a critical reflection that draws on secondary sources to frame the creative portion; 2) a research paper which contributes to the ongoing scholarly conversation about 1 literary work, drawing on 2-3 secondary sources.
Most primary texts and all theoretical readings will be provided on Moodle. Primary texts for the course, sometimes excerpted, will include Mahasweta Devi’s “Draupadi,” Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!, Craig Santos Perez’s from UNINCORPORATED TERRITORY, Don Mee Choi’s Hardly War, DMZ Colony, and selected essays, and Xiaolu Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. Theoretical context will include Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” and her translator’s introduction to “Draupadi,” Ania Loomba’s Colonialism/Postcolonialism, Edward Said’s Orientalism, Braj Kachru’s The Alchemy of English, Edward Kamau Brathwaite’s “Nation Language,” Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Epeli Hau‘ofa’s “Our Sea of Islands,” and others.