Spring 2013
- Seminar in Language and Literature: Postcolonial, Global, Transnational

In this course we will examine these salient literary, historical and political categories that have helped shape the study of literature and culture in US universities beginning with postcolonial studies in the mid 1980s.  We will examine how and whether these categories or conditions are connected and how they helped shape readings of major literary and cultural texts. Thus for example we would begin with Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and read it alongside a section Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism to understand how a so-called domestic novel is part of the fabric of the British Empire. We will watch the movie in which the imperial aspect is much more foregrounded and ask how the translation of the movie ties into our contemporary moment shaped as they are by the above categories.  We will attend to issues of modernism and modernity and examine global modernisms by not only reading Woolf and Joyce but also Indian authors like Mulk Raj  (who was very much part of the Bloomsbury group) and his novel Untouchable.

WWII is always thought of as a war played out in the West and we forget how many Indians and Africans fought in that war as a result of the British Empire. We may read Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace (a WWII novel set in India, Burma and Malaysia) to open up the geography of the theater of war and rethink our notions about modernism and modernity. Of course we will also read key works (fiction and poetry) by men and women coming out of India, Africa and the Caribbean to understand the Anglophone nature of contemporary world literature, all part and parcel of imperialism and globalization.  Towards the end of the course we will turn to transnationalism, a key category that currently has found much force in various fields and periods of literary studies. For this course we will use transnationalism as a way to understand its popularity in American literary and cultural studies. To that end we will take a look at the discourse of US exceptionalism and try to unravel that exceptionality by taking a hard and long look at the US as very much an Empire. We may read Don DeLillo’s Falling Man and also Joseph O’Neil’s Netherlands, Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying and examine writings on Guantanamo Bay, Occupy Wall Street, etc., to understand what gets erased in celebrations of transnationalism.  

In general, this course will introduce you to the three terms in the title of the course through an engagement with key literary and theoretical texts that have helped shape them. We will always pay attention to questions of aesthetics and form without losing sight of the political and the ethical.   There will be three short papers and a seminar paper.  This class is open to seniors and graduate students.


Junior standing. For ENGL majors only.


Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Course intended primarily for students in English Honors Program. English majors with strong academic records may also apply. Permission from the Director of Honors required.