ENGL630 - Readings In 20th Century English Literature: What (and Where and Why) in the World is “English” Literature?

Apropos of recent global developments in literary theory and practice, this course is a survey of important works of “English” literature across the twentieth century—with a global difference. This difference is the assumption that “English” literature is a category that should include not only British authored and Anglophone colonial and postcolonial texts, but also the full range of planetary literatures—including American literatures and works that enter English through translation—which at various moments arise in the field and contact-space of cultures of the English language. It is the literary battleground and contact-space afforded by the English language, mediating larger twentieth century cultural and political developments of race, ethnicity, empire, world system, nation, transnational affiliation, ethnic and economic justice, the State, media, mass culture, interpenetrations of domestic and global affairs, and larger aesthetic concerns including modernism and postmodernism, that constitutes the primary domain of this course. Its underlying question: in the late 1960’s Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o proposed the abolition of the English department and by extension curricula organized by the idea of “English”; his critique is far from specific only to the African circumstances in which he wrote, and must include whomever it is who originally envisioned a fundamental organizing graduate course slot entitled “Readings in 20th Century English Literature” (i.e. not me). Is there a viable way of articulating a program for studying “English” literature in this twenty-first century moment—in the U.S.?

Likely literary texts include works by Kipling, Conrad, Wells, Tagore, Dostoevsky, Woolf, Joyce, Rhys, Faulkner, Shen Congwen, Jovita González, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Margaret Drabble, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Caryl Phillips. Likely theoretical and critical readings include works by Moretti, Jameson, Said, Gikandi, Ngugi, Doyle, Kaplan, Giles, Bahktin, Caserio, Walkowitz, Melas, and Moya.