Sem in Comparative Lit: Intro to Postcolonial Theory (LSE/CSAP)

I. Description

This course is an introduction to postcolonial theory as an
influential academic formation of the last thirty years. It sets out to review,
critique and contextualize this methodology of literary and cultural study.
Accordingly, the course will engage with some of the major figures who have
contributed to the emergence of this mode of cultural critique and its most
persistent preoccupations and themes. Particular focus will be on literary
studies, cultural studies and historiography, as these disciplines have been
particularly important as sites for the elaboration of postcolonial theory. The
expectation is that at the end of the semester students will have a strong
general sense of the debates within the interdisciplinary field of postcolonial
theory and be ready to pursue more particular projects relating to the field
should they so wish.

We will read a variety of texts (excerpted or in entirety) from
Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth
through Edward Said’s Orientalism and
the work of Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Rey Chow to more recent essays by Kwame
Anthony Appiah, Simon Gikandi,  and Rob
Nixon. Some of our time will be focused on teasing out methodologies, or modes
of cultural critique—noting how critics “doing” postcolonial theory do what
they do. However, we will remain equally attentive to the urgent events, ideas
and texts (in brief, objects of analysis) on which the methodologies operate.

The following are examples of themes that will be explored:
definitions of colonialism/postcolonialism/neocolonialism/imperialism; colonial
discourse analysis; Marxism; feminism; nationalism; questions of agency;
notions of hybridity; racial identity. Towards the end of the semester, we will
turn our attention to new tendencies within postcolonial theory oriented towards
the exploration of globalization, of the vernacular, and of comparatism and

Students interested in postcolonialism from a variety of
cultural and philosophical perspectives will benefit from this class. The
assignments will be designed to train students in two of the most important
professional genres of the profession: the conference presentation and the
critical essay. Students will be encouraged to imagine and execute projects
that relate to their interests. Hawaiian and Pacific languages and literatures
are outside my area of expertise; however some readings included will touch on
these areas. I welcome students who wish to pursue projects relating to Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

2. Provisional Reading List:

Postcolonialisms: An
Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism
, ed. Gaurav Desai and Supriya
Nair (this text includes several of the well known postcolonial critics; you
can find a Table of contents here:

Orientalism, Edward

The Wretched of the
, Frantz Fanon

Course Packet of Readings:

 “The Question of
Orientalism,” Bernard Lewis

from The Colonizer and
the Colonized
, Albert Memmi

from American Pacificism,
Paul Lyons

from Postcolonialism:
An Historical Introduction
, Robert Young

from Provincializing
, Dipesh Chakraborty

from Wars of Position,
Timothy Brennan

from Imperial Leather,
Anne McClintock

from Cosmopolitanism,
Kwame Anthony Appiah

“Under Western Eyes” and “Under Western Eyes Revisited,” Chandra
Talpade Mohanty

“Environmentalism and Postcolonialism,” Rob Nixon

“Hand-to-Hand History,” Laura Lyons

From Flesh and Fish
Blood: Postcolonialism, Translation and the Vernacular
S. Shankar