Studies in Postcolonial Lit (The Postcolonial Novel)

Postcolonialism is a term
often given to the period following the decline and dismantling of the great
modern European empires, especially Britain and France. Roughly the period runs
from 1945 (the end of World War II) to contemporary times in Asia, Africa and
the Caribbean. This course follows one genre—the novel—through this history and
across this geography. While the novel arrived in these parts of the world
through colonialism, postcolonial novelists adapted it to their own ends. They
experimented with language, subject matter, novelistic techniques and other
aspects in making the literary form of the novel their own. Certainly, we will
explore postcolonial novels as literary creations; we will also put them within
their historical contexts, for novelists engaged with their past and commented
on their present in writing novels. We will be attentive to both similarities
and differences among the writers, noting broadly shared postcolonial themes
(such as decolonization, nationalism, modernization and women’s experiences) as
well as particular histories.

The reading includes
classic postcolonial novels such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and R. K. Naryan’s The Guide. We will also read more recent novels by younger writers
such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Edwidge Danticat. At the end of the
semester, students will have a sense of the richness of the novel form, a deep
understanding of specific aspects of the postcolonial novel as a subgenre, and a
knowledge of major debates about colonialism and its aftermath as historical
phenomena. They will also have opportunities to explore schools and techniques
of literary analysis.

This is a W focus class
and so students will spend time writing and discussing writing. Since this is a
Studies class, they will write a ten-page research paper at the end of the
semester. Leading up to this paper they will write a four page research
proposal accompanied by a three page annotated bibliography. The substance of
the grade will be in these assignments; but in addition students will post
responses to the books online at least twice during the semester.

Required Texts: Chinua
Achebe, Things Fall Apart; Nadine
Gordimer, The Conservationist;
Chimanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus;
R. K. Narayan, The Guide; Anita
Desai, Clear Light of Day; Mohsin
Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist;
V. S. Naipaul, Miguel Street; Edwidge
Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory.