The Postcolonial Novel


Spring 2016 quarter

Taught by

British literature


Well-prepared students will have previously studied literature and/or the humanities, and will have written a significant paper (10+ pp.) on the topic. Lower-division students may be admitted pending an assessment of written work.

With the breakup of the British Empire following World War II, a new set of states emerged into the world, each with particular cultural concerns. Many of those concerns are described in the imaginative genre of the novel. This program will explore the aesthetic and political issues around the novel, from the early 20th century to the present, with a focus on Anglophone writing from current and former commonwealth countries.

The intersection of colonialism, nationalism, cultural identity, and the novel will be an important locus of attention. What makes a novel "British," "colonial," or "postcolonial"? What happens when politics and art are married, and what is gained and lost in this relationship? In what ways can writers and their work be representative—or not representative—of a so-called “genuine national tradition”? What constitutes a progressive or moral artwork, and does that have any special value?

Our reading list will begin with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness , and will go on to consider a number of other novels and writers such as Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Kiran Desai, E.M. Forster, Ben Okri, and/or Zadie Smith. We will read excerpts from other works of fiction, critical views on the postcolonial novel, and contemporary literary theory. Films may be screened in class. By the end of the program, students will have a firm foundation in postcolonial literature, exposure to significant strands of literary theory, and experience with upper-division literary research.

Students will be asked to read various texts, prepare presentations, lead class discussions, and produce a critical paper (15+ pages), in addition to minor assignments. The best work in this program will be useful for graduate school applications.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

literary criticism, cultural studies, and education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Advertised schedule: First spring class meeting: Monday, March 28 at 10am (Sem 2 D3105)


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$50 for entrance fees to plays, tours, and films.

Research Possibilities

Students will conduct advanced research in literary criticism and the humanities.


Date Revision
March 11th, 2016 This program will now accept Sophomores.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 30068

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