The Postcolonial Novel
Spring 2016 quarter
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.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day