Senior Honors Seminar

If resistance’s primary motivation is the removal of wrong and the creation of a better world through struggle, how do individuals understand its nuances and respond positively or negatively to its siren call?

In ENG 491, we explore this question through modern literary and filmic narratives representing resistance. We will begin with an understanding of resistance as publicly manifested assertions of organized agency by those who deem themselves unfairly subjected. Anchored by this idea of resistance (but not necessarily limited by it), we will explore the ways in which individuals participate in, join, transform, re-interpret and resist resistance. We will carry out this exploration by reference to two resistance movements of global significance that continue to resonate today: decolonization (in India and Africa); and agitation for reproductive rights (in the US and Great Britain). Both these transnational movements have been widely represented in literature and film.

Through novels and feature films, we will consider many aspects of resistance aimed at overturning structures of exclusion and oppression based on colonial (racial, ethnic and cultural) difference as well as gender- and sex-based discrimination related to reproductive rights. Through the juxtaposition of different issues, identities and histories we will learn to think comparatively across diverse social and political events and movements. The resistance narratives—narratives representing resistance—we engage will go from the tragic to the comic, from the triumphant to the skeptical. By considering literature and film across such a wide range, the course aims to get students to work comparatively also across genres and thus develop their skills of formal analysis.

The required primary texts will be supplemented by historical, critical and theoretical essays. The aim is to emerge from the semester with a nuanced understanding (1) of the potential of “resistance” as a political act and (2) of narrative representation and cultural analysis relating to resistance. Since this is a senior honors seminar, the focus of class work will be on doing research and writing research papers.

This course satisfies DL and WI requirements.

Required Texts (the films will be made available through Sinclair Library and the supplementary readings through Laulima):

A Flight of Pigeons (novella), Ruskin Bond

Things Fall Apart (novel), Chinua Achebe

Kanthapura (novel), Raja Rao

Emitaï (film), dir. Ousmane Sembene

Mortu Nega (film), dir. Flora Gomes

The Handmaid’s Tale (novel), Margaret Atwood

Citizen Ruth (film), dir. Alexander Payne

Vera Drake (film), dir. Mike Leigh

Supplementary Readings


Class Work:

Weekly Responses to Assigned Reading/Viewing

Oral Presentation of Five Page Paper on a Required Text or Texts

Five Page Mid-Term Paper on Research Project

Twelve Page Final Research Paper