The process called globalization has been going on for centuries, but the last few decades have witnessed a dramatically rapid emergence of new systems and technologies of global exchange. Our task in this class will be to consider the ways these developments are affecting literature – reshaping both the internal form of literary works themselves and the larger system of literary marketing and consumption. We will look at some of the more influential stories of the global that have been offered by contemporary English-language novelists: “world fictions” that seem to cut loose from any particular national literary tradition or framework in order to map their themes and characters onto a space of constant and often troubling transnational contact. And we will put these narratives into the context of a literary world system that is establishing new genres, new readerships, new vehicles of distribution and promotion.
Reading for the course will consist of six or eight novels, probably including some of the following: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy, J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace or Elizabeth Costello, William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy, and Vikram Swarup’s Q&A. We will discuss the film adaptations of at least two of these novels. Throughout the semester we will also be reading essays and excerpts from some of the major scholars and theorists of globalization, including economists, sociologists, and anthropologists as well as literary critics. Written work will include three half-hour exams and a 12-14 page term paper based on independent research and submitted in draft as well as final form.