What makes a story a postcolonial tale? And why do such tales still hold our attention in a world now predominantly understood as being globalized instead of colonized? Taking these two questions as its starting point, this course invites students to tackle the issue of representation in the stories told by colonized people about their experiences. Telling these stories became a crucial and necessary assertion of the imagination: by envisioning pasts, presents, and futures no longer narrowly defined by colonial and imperial categories, the colonized found new ways in which to represent their identities, histories, and landscapes.
By focusing on various forms of postcolonial literary representations— poems, short stories, and novels—we will engage the concerns, conundrums, and catastrophes that come to structure the aesthetic vision of what the celebrated Algerian novelist Assia Djebar called “a night that is no longer colonial.” How does one textually and literarily represent such a “night” even when it never in fact arrives? In one way or another, all writers, from multiple generations, who position themselves in relation to “the postcolonial,” both as a temporal marker and a process of critique, strive to answer this question in their confrontation with new kinds of colonialism and imperialism. In this course, we will engage postcolonialism as an indispensable aesthetic and theoretical framework by which to understand the complexities involved in making cultural difference not simply visible but also viable in the modern world.
1) Learn and develop the techniques of close reading both orally and in writing.
2) Grasp the key theoretical ideas that give shape to the field of postcolonial studies.
3) Gain an in-depth understanding of the ideologies, politics, and historical particularities that both enable and foreclose postcolonial readings of literary texts.
4) Explore how literature participates in the formulation of a critique of colonialism and imperialism.
5) Understand how the relationship between culture and empire comes to shape modernity.
6) Develop their critical reading and writing skills in order to complete an independent research project.
20% Class Participation: will be determined by reading quizzes, small-group and class discussions, student-led presentations, and writing feedback groups. Since the class meets once a week for two hours, attendance is a must.
15% Paper 1: A 2-3-page essay (double-spaced) in which students will present an “against the grain reading” of one primary text without the use of scholarly sources.
20% Paper 2: A 4-5-page “lens essay” (double-spaced) in which students will use one scholarly source as an analytical lens in order to perform a close reading of one primary text.
15% Annotated Bibliography for Final Research Paper: a concise description of a student’s research project as well as a summary of two main scholarly sources a student intends to engage with in said project (no more than 2 double-spaced pages).
30% Final Research Paper: An 8-10-page paper (double-spaced) in which students will further a scholarly argument concerning a primary source of their choice by entering into a scholarly conversation with two scholarly sources.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor Dust
Derek Walcott, “The Schooner Flight”
Dionne Brand, various poems (TBA)
Jamaica Kincaid, “Blackness”
Sam Selvon, “Come Back to Grenada”
Edwidge Danticat, “Without Inspection”
Viet Thanh Nguyen (ed.) The Displaced (selections)
**excerpts of various critical and theoretical works will be made available on Moodle**