ENGL668D - Readings in Modern Literary Theory: What is "Postcolonial" Reading

In the last decade there has been a lot of attention paid to reading, or more specifically to how we read what we read. While close reading may still be the primary mode of teaching in an undergraduate classroom, the kind of reading privileged during the heyday of poststructuralism can largely be understood as guided by a “hermeneutics of suspicion.”  Recently, there has been a turn away from such a mode of reading and terms like “surface reading,” “distant reading” “close but not deep” reading, “ethical” reading have been put into play alongside and often against Sedgwick’s deeply influential categories of “paranoid” and “reparative” reading.  Any mode of reading must pay attention to writing, to questions of aesthetics, ethics, politics and affect. Thus questions of form and genre play an integral role when we turn our attention to reading.

In this seminar, I want to take up these debates in terms of postcolonial studies? We will examine the consolidation of the field through a reading of its canonical literature and criticism. We will ask questions about why the novel, and realism per se, continues to dominate the scene; why the critical essay seems to be the ideal mode for postcolonial criticism (think about Said, Spivak, Bhabha, Mbembe , Cesaire, Glissant, Ahmed, Lionnet, Edwards, Attridge among others)? What is the dominant mode in which postcolonial literature is still being read? Are the types of reading mentioned above sufficient when it comes to thinking about the postcolonial text (both the literary and the critical)? Are there modes of postcolonial reading not addressed in the current debates? Are there recent novels such as  NoViolet Bulwayo ‘s We Need New Names , Lahiri’s Lowland, Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies, Zake Mda’s  Cion, Junot Diaz’s  This is How you Lose Her and Zadie Smith’s NW that demand a new vocabulary for reading than canonical texts like Midnight’s Children, Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, Coetze’s Waiting for the Barbarians and Lamming’s the Emigrants? Can we, this course wants to ask, enter the debates about reading circulating presently and advance its concerns through a postcolonial lens?

We will read a number of novels (some listed above) and read a wide range of theoretical essays on reading along with postcolonial and transnational criticism. There will be two short papers (theoretical), a seminar paper abstract and a ten page seminar paper required for this class.