Postcolonial Literature and Theory

T, TR, Fall 2007



This course introduces you to some of the leading concepts in postcolonial scholarship along with some of the major postcolonial authors. The postcolonial cultural production can be roughly divided into three overlapping phases: the works produced during the contact phase, the native responses to colonialism, and the postcolonial cultural production both from the global periphery and the diasporic authors. Postcolonialism is a dynamic, expansive, and contested field of literary study involving a high degree of multidisciplinarity and theoretical innovation. This course will also introduce you to the early and current debates of the field and possibilities of the field in the future. We will pay special attention to the current state of high capital and neoliberal globalization and the artistic and critical responses being offered in resistance.


We will read these texts of the global periphery not simply as crystallized versions of the cultures that they attempt to represent, but also use them as points of departure into a study of the larger power structures within which these texts are produced. In doing so we will also question our own place and privileged location within the academy and imagine the possibilities of making our work commensurate with the acts of semiotic and material resistance being offered to the reigning power structures by the cultures of the global south in the spirit of what Gramsci describes as the organic intellectuals.


Using printed texts and film, this course will introduce you to the current global negotiation of power, the articulation of native resistance to the imperatives of globalization, and the native attempts at achieving social justice. In doing so we will also touch upon the role of the nation-state within the current climate of neoliberal globalization and the global war on terror, the politics of the diasporic cultural production, and the possibilities of global, rhizomatic popular alliances.


Required Texts:

Primary Texts:

Ngugi, Wa Thiong’o. Devil on the Cross. Oxford: Heinemann, 1982.

Cliff, Michelle. Abeng. New York: Penguin, 1995.

Cooke, Miriam. Hayati: My Life. New York: Syracuse UP, 2000.

Djebar, Assia. So Vast The Prison.New York: Seven Stories, 2001.

Hyder, Quratulain. River of Fire. 1951. New York: New Directions, 1998.


Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. New York: Routledge, 1998.

Said, Edward. Orientalism.

Goodman, Robin and Saltman. Strangelove. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.

Occasional handouts. [HO]


Course Policies and Requirements:

Students are expected to come prepared for class: This involves reading the assigned texts, listening carefully to their peers, and contributing their views in a collegiate and stimulating way. Attendance is mandatory.

Distribution of Points:

Presentation                        200 Points

Mid-Term Paper                   300 Points

Participation                        100 Points

Term Paper                         400 Points

Total                                 1000 Points



During the first week you will choose a particular novel for your presentation. Your presentation will then fall in the week in which your chosen novel is scheduled for class discussion. I expect a 30-40 minutes presentation using the insights provided by the secondary readings. Following are some, but not all, questions you may consider:

What does the text say about gender, race, ethnicity, class, nation, or power and what are your views about it?
Did you agree or disagree with the text’s politics? why?
What is the text critiquing?
How can we relate this text to contemporary realities?
Does this text raise the question of justice? If so, how and for whom?
Does the text provide a politics for a better future?
How does the form compare to the metropolitan techniques of creative production? (For creative writing majors)

Mid-Term Paper:

The Mid-term paper will be due by the end of the eighth week. It should be 8-10 pages (typed, double-spaced, font 12, Times Roman) and should examine at least one of the novels assigned for the class. You may develop your presentation topic into this project. You are not expected to engage in any detailed research; the secondary sources discussed in the class are sufficient. Papers must be handed in on the due date: No electronic submissions.

Class Participation:

As this is a seminar based on a discussion format, your thoughtful participation is essential to the success of the class. I encourage collegiate, open, and thought-provoking class discussions. Remember, we are all here to learn, so let us share our ideas and knowledge to make this class into a dynamic learning experience.

Term Paper:

The final term paper will be due on the last day of class. The paper should be 10-15 pages, with a clearly defined thesis and a coherent argument. I would encourage you to choose your topic early and do extensive research. I will be available to assist during all stages of your research and composition process. You are expected to write a publishable paper in the house style of any of the following journals:



            South Asian Review

            Small Axe

            Journal of Commonwealth Literature

            Caribbean Studies

You may also choose a journal that you like; please discuss it with me in advance. We will spend the last week of class responding to the papers in a class workshop. I will be available to work with you if you choose to submit your paper to the journal of your choice after the semester. No late papers please.


You are expected to attend the class regularly. You will be in the danger of failing the course if your absences exceed the number of officially allowed absences.


Plagiarism is against the law, and will result in automatic failure in the course. Simply stated, plagiarism is when you try to pass anyone else’s work as your own or if you turn in your own work written for another class.


If you have a disability, please contact the campus ADA office and bring me the necessary documentation. I will try my best to accommodate you if you need any special instruction or assistance.

Grading Scale:


A                        950-1000

A-                        900-949  

B+                        860-899  

B                        830-859

B-                             800-829

C+                        760-799

C                        739-759

C-                             700-729

D+                        660-699

D                        630-659

D-                            600-629

F                        Less than 600 Points



Weekly Class Schedule


Note: This is a tentative weekly schedule. The instructor may change it as and when it

becomes necessary. All such changes will be announced in the class.


Week One

Introduction to the course and Postcolonialism

Choose your presentation topic


“On National Culture.” Fanon. (HO)

“Introduction” and “Situating Postcolonial Studies.”  (Loomba 1-94)

“The Angel of Progress. . .” (McClintock, HO).

“The Postcolonial Aura. . .” (Dirlik, HO)

 Week Two

Class Discussion:             Fanon, Loomba, and McClintock


Loomba, (pp. 104-255)

“Notes on the Postcolonial.” Shohat (HO)

Film Screening (Time to be announced later): Fanon.

Week Three

Class Discussion:            Loomba and Shohat.


Devil on the Cross            Ngugi

“The Language of African Literature” ( Ngugi, HO)

“The African Novel and its Critics” (Chinweizu, HO)

Week Four

Presentation:                        Ngugi

Class Discussion:            Ngugi and Chinweizu.


Abeng                        Cliff

Orientalsim                  Said

“When Was the Postcolonial.” (Hall, HO)

Week Five

Presentation:                        Cliff, Said

Class Discussion:            Cliff, Said, Hall


So Vast the Prison            Djebar

Orientalism                        Said

“Can the  Subaltern. . .” Spivak

Film Screening: (Time to be announced later): Orientalism

Week Six

Presentation:                        Djebar          

Class Discussion:            Djebar, Said, and Spivak.


So Vast the Prison            Djebar

Strangelove                        Goodman

Film Screening (Time TBA): Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers

Week Seven

Presentation:                        Djebar

Class Discussion:            Djebare and Goodman


River of Fire                        Hyder

Strangelove                Goodman   

“Signs Taken for”        Bhabha

Week Eight

Presentation:                        Hyder

Class Discussion:            Hyder, Goddman and Bhabha.

Mid-Term Papers Due


River of Fire                        Hyder

Week Nine

Class Discussion:            Hyder


River of Fire                        Hyder

Week Ten

Presentation:                        Hyder

Class Discussion:            Hyder


Hayati                                    Cooke

“Intro Question of Palestine.” Said, HO

Film Screening (Time to be announced later): The Gaza Ghetto

Week Eleven

Presentation:                        Cooke

Class Discussion:            Cooke, Said


“The Social Construction of Postcolonial Studies.” (David Scott, HO)

Week Twelve

Presentation:                        Leftover Presentations

Class Discussion:            Scott

Week Thirteen

Concluding Discussion and Workshop on Term Papers.

Week Fourteen

Concluding Discussion and Workshop on Term papers.

Final papers due on last day of classes.