In Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children, making pickles represents the creation of India’s national identity. The novel’s narrator, meanwhile, has “pickled chapters.” In this image, nation-formation after colonialism collides with writing fiction. A famous example of the “postcolonial novel,” Midnight’s Children examines the challenges to nation-building left in the wake of British colonialism – and the suitability of the novel genre to represent these issues. Why is the novel (often considered European) a key genre for authors from colonized nations? In what ways have postcolonial novelists shaken up the canon of English literature? What are the possibilities and limitations of the novel form for telling stories from all over the world?
In this class, we will study novels from South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, New Zealand, North America, and the Caribbean. Our course will be organized into four units that highlight key themes of global literature from 1945 to the present: Nation; Race and Transnationalism; Gender and Sexuality; and Environment. These units will overlap and intersect in their shared concerns with the ongoing legacies of colonialism and neocolonialism.
Novels will include: Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, George Lamming’s The Emigrants, Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, J.M. Coetzee’s Foe, Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, Louise Erdrich’s Tracks, and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. Assignments will include several short writing assignments, two formal essays, and one in-class presentation.