This is an introductory course about “world fictions” (both literary and cinematic) in the age of global English. How are works of contemporary literature and film in English – the kinds of stories they tell, their ways of telling, and their fates in the marketplace – being reshaped by globalization? Are the growing media dominance of the English language and the increasing power of London, New York, and Hollywood as the major centers of cultural production effecting a kind of McNovelization of the developing world, in which poorer and more peripheral locations can only tell their stories in the forms approved by the media conglomerates and their large western readerships? Or are we seeing the breakdown of any clear standard or center: the emergence of new, weird and rogue forms of English, wild deformations of the conventional English novel and the normative Hollywood film, and ever more radically opposed narratives about the state of the world?
In order to approach these and other questions, we will read six or seven mostly short novels and view a handful of films. Our syllabus will likely include Shame by Salman Rusdhie, Sozaboy by Ken Saro-Wiwa, Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn, and the films Trainspotting by Danny Boyle, Whale Rider by Niki Caro, and Bride and Prejudice by Gurinda Chadha. Each of these works has attained a certain stature in the world system, some by winning major international prizes and awards, some by achieving massive commercial success, and some simply by being widely taught in high school and university English classes. We will consider not only texts in themselves, but the ways they have been advertised, distributed, and consumed.
Work for this class will include five short quizzes, and three essays of 4-8 pages pages, at least one of which will be submitted in draft form and then revised after feedback from your TA. No previous study of literature or film is required or expected. This class satisfies the General Education Requirement in Arts and Letters, and counts for credit toward WATU. Scheduled film screenings are optional; other ways of accessing the films will be arranged.