Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Globalization and the Fate of Literature

ENGL 395.401

   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, new relations between print, film, television, and video.  

    Reading for the course will consist of seven or eight major literary works in the emergent canon of “global English,” possibly including novels by Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, J.M Coetzee, V. S. Naipaul, Jessica Hagedorn, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ken Saro Wiwa, William Gibson, Witi Ihimaera, Michael Ondaatje, or Athol Fugard.  We will also study several recent films, including at least two that were adapted from 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 one-hour exams and a 15-page term paper based on independent research and submitted in draft as well as final form.

    The course is intended as an introduction; no previous coursework or background is expected.  It is, however, an Honors seminar designed for Franklin Scholars in the College and Joseph Wharton Scholars at Wharton.  Others will be admitted by permission as space allows.   

The course syllabus is available here.

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major