Columbus’s journey of 1492, waves of people migrated out from Europe conquering
and settling lands across the globe and displacing indigenous peoples. This
modern colonialism transformed the world utterly. Modern colonialism is in fact
one of the foundational historical processes of the contemporary world and the
British Empire was an especially prominent example of this colonialism. This
course explores literary depictions of both colonialism and its aftermath
(postcolonialism); it explores both the wide variety of ways in which the processes
of colonialism come to be depicted in (for the most part) literature written in
English and the ethical issues associated with these depictions.


We will begin the
semester with three works written during colonialism by authors commonly
regarded as British—Shakespeare, Swift, and Conrad. Then we will turn to
writers who wrote out of opposition to or keen awareness of colonialism—Achebe,
Naipaul and Gordimer (and others). We will end the semester with Kanafani and
Kincaid, who provide perspectives on important postcolonial issues. The course
will take us to Britain, the Middle East, the Caribbean as well as Hawaii and
the Pacific.


Colonialism raised
difficult, even harrowing, questions for both colonizers and colonized: how can
the conquest of another people be justified? why should racial difference be
given an inordinate importance in human affairs? when and how should oppression
be resisted? what is the ethical value of victimhood? We will engage these and
similar questions through our readings (which include both literary and
critical texts), class discussions, formal written assignments, structured
activities such as debates, and regular web-based activities. This course
satisfies the W Focus requirement. Thus the semester will be concerned not only
with the exploration of literary issues but also related to the writing


Required Texts:

Shakespeare, The Tempest (Norton Critical Edition Only)

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s
(Norton Critical Edition Only)

Joseph Conrad, Heart
of Darkness
(Norton Critical Edition Only)

Chinua Achebe, Things
Fall Apart

V. S. Naipaul, Miguel

Nadine Gordimer,
July’s People

Kanafani, Men in the Sun and Other Stories

Jamaica Kincaid,
A Small Place

Course Packet


Assignments and Class Work:

Course work will
consist of two exams (mid-term and final);

Two essays of
seven pages each;

Other less
formal assignments.


The exams and essays—each of equal weightage—will
constitute 80% of the grade. The remaining 20% will be based on the in-class
and web-based assignments, class participation and attendance.