Postcolonial Narrative Genres:

Fantastic Storytelling in Fiction and Film

How can the ways in which we tell a
story–our narrative strategies–promote, support, or resist, colonial
structures? How can storytelling writers and artists, creatively mix different
genres (that is: narrative conventions that comfort us with predictable
character types, plot structures, story situations, aesthetic styles, and moral
codes), so as to feed the criticalimagination
of readers and audiences living under colonial and post-colonial conditions, to
help these readers/audiences survive, even challenge, the historical structures
of discrimination, dehumanization, or oppression, that might stem from such
conditions? Specifically, using Western narrative conventions of science
fiction, fantasy, and horror, how can post-colonial and anti-colonial
storytellers transform Eurocentric genre modes, moments, and movements of the
“fantastic,” into new/hybrid/syncretistic genre conventions, that might help
readers/audiences better perceive the unjust socio-economic conditions of
colonized or post-colonial regions? In this course, we will study narrative
strategies in literary fiction and in fictional film and TV, that blend
fantastic and realistic genre techniques and content, in ways that interrogate
cultural and economic imperialism, colonialism and settler colonialism, neo-
and post-colonial conditions, and class/race/gender stratification, in the
United States and the world.


We will begin the course by reviewing
core concepts such as colonialism and post-colonialism, genre, narrative,
history, culture, and form. We will read excerpts from genre theorists such as
John Frow and narratologists such as Seymour Chatman; then review most of Aimé
Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialismfor
an introduction to post-colonialism. Short essays or book chapters by Tzvetan
Todorov, John Rieder, Farah Mendlesohn, Cristina Bacchilega, and Jack Zipes
will then follow, for a summary of Western definitions of the fantastic and the
historical connections between fantastic print literature and colonialism.


Following that introduction, the
majority of the course will focus on formal technique. We will study how
indigenous writers (and artists), regional or local writers, immigrant or
diasporic writers, writers of color, female, LGBT, working and/or lower class,
experimental/progressive, or other unconventional writers in fantastic
literature, have:


Western classical and post-classical narrative strategies of the fantastic
towards indigenous/local/immigrant/racialized/feminist/queer/poor/etc. story
settings and content

upon their own community’s narrative conventions to enrich, or supplant, the
artistic toolbox of established Euro-American fantastic print genres such as
science fiction, fantasy, and horror (sf/f/h)

formal turns in character, plot, or perspective, to retell Western sf/f/h genre
tales so that they “speak back” against themselves (e.g. the alien talking back
to the astronaut; the dragon to the warrior; the witch to the witch-hunter)

cultural semiotics including language and other meaning systems, to depict the
individual body, the social body, or the “landscape”/”nature” in fantastic ways
to illustrate the effects of colonialism or methods of people’s survivance/resistance

the flow and type of narrative information towards building empathy, ethical
understanding, and identification with indigenous, local, diasporic, immigrant,
minority, female, queer, working- or lower-class, etc., characters,
communities, and world views

with mainstream blending of form and content by juxtaposing realism/modernism
with so-called “magical” and/or “surrealistic” approaches in fresh ways that
invite critical thinking about colonialism

what we call non-linear, avant-garde, or non-developmental narrative techniques
to re-conceptualize the spatial-temporal foundations of classical European and
American story categories, thus disrupting key genre boundaries between
“fiction” and “non-fiction,” “story” and “history,” the “unreal” and the
“real,” and “fantasy” and “reality”–and getting readers/audiences to question
related categories of “us” and “the other”


We will end the course by looking at
audio-visual and participatory texts, including contemporary sf/f/h “media”
stories in film, on television, on the web, in video games, and in oral and
performative cultural modes and platforms. We will finish by discussing how
formal elements such as camera, lighting, editing, directing/staging, and
production design can be combined to take audiences/participants on narrative
journeys that foreground issues of race, class, gender, and colonialism in our
twenty-first century fantastic tales told in new media.


The genres will include science
fiction, fantasy, and horror print literature; folkloric myth and legend;
magical realism and surrealism; “traditional,” modern, and post-modern fairy
tales; among others. This course fulfills a W Focus designation, so students
should be prepare to write during class sessions and submit weekly posts to the
Laulima course website, in addition to attending the face-to-face class


Texts: Print Literature


– Cesaire, Aime, Discourse on Colonialism(1955, Monthly Review Press, ISBN: 1-58367-025-4)


the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction

by Grace L. Dillon [2012, University of Arizona Press; 4

Series: Sun Tracks (Book 69), ISBN-10: 0816529825 or ISBN-13:



See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction

Anthology, edited by Fabio Fernandes &
Djibril al-Ayad [2013,

ISBN-10: 0957397526 or ISBN-13: 978-0957397521]


Course reader



Film and TV Texts
to rent/stream/buy (this list will be
finalized in the first two weeks of class)


Araki, Gregg, Kaboom (2010)

Blomkamp, Neill, District 9(2009)

Caro, Niki, Whale Rider (2002)

Fuqua, Antoine, King Arthur(2004)

Martin, Darnell, “Little Brother,” Masters
of Science Fiction
(TV, 2007)

Nakano, Desmond, White Man’s Burden (1995)

Rivera, Alex, Sleep Dealer (2008)

Rose, Bernard, Candyman (1997)

Weir, Peter. The Last Wave (1977)


Grading Basis

    Five short, informal essays

    In-class audio-visual and/or multimedia presentation analyzing
one postcolonial fantastic text (using the web, video,
Prezi/Keynote/PowerPoint, etc.)

15%   Research paper on one issue in postcolonial
narrative fantastic genres

    Weekly Discussion Board posts on Laulima course website

    In-class writing, group exercises, and class discussion