Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Colonial/Postcolonial Fiction and Film

ENGL 572.401
also offered as: AFRC 572, COML 575, CIMS 572
Thursday 3-6:00pm


In this seminar we will study a series of thematically connected novels by some of the twentieth-century’s most important writers from England and the global south.  It is conceived of as a survey course, or one for building a teaching repertoire, and one in which anyone interested in postcolonial literature, African literature, global modernities, cinema, and the novel will be welcome.  Each week, we will also consider a film that amplifies the themes raised by the novels: some will be adaptations, though, in most, cases we will view a related and artistically distinguished film. Discussions will examine the following oppositions: “Englishness” (or “Frenchness”) and otherness, civilization and barbarism, power and knowledge, the metropolis and the periphery, and writing and orality.  This is to say that the course will also have a theoretical component; students will be able to draw on an archive of relevant scholarship on Canvas.  Please note that the course is somewhat Africa-focused, though not exclusively so, and that a few contemporary re-imaginings of earlier classics may also be included.  In this way the course will revisit works that are familiar and also introduce ones will probably feel quite new. Likely novels include: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; E.M. Forster, Passage to India; Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief; Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing; Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea; Graham Greene, The Quiet American; Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart and/or Arrow of God; Sembene Ousmane, God’s Bits of Wood, J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (plus Coetzee’s screenplay); Kazuo Ishiguru, The Remains of the Day; Amitav Ghosh, A Sea of Poppies, Eben Venter, Trencherman, and Damon Galgut, Arctic Summer. Films may include: Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Black and White in Color, The Year of Living Dangerously, Sugar Cane Alley, The Battle of Algiers, Lumumba: La Mort du Prophète, The Quiet American, and Caché Requirements: one or two in-class presentations (depending on class size); a final paper of about 15-20 pp.

fulfills requirements