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Topics in Postcolonial Literature: The Dictator Novel as Global Form

ENGL 293.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

In this seminar, we will explore the ways in which twentieth-century writers across the globe have responded to tyrants and tyrannical regimes by reading a set of outstanding contemporary novels from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.  The dictator novel has in the last fifty years become a vital global form, from the Latin American boom writers of the 1960s and 1970s (represented on the syllabus by Manuel Puig and Gabriel García-Márquez) to two of the most recent Nobel prize winners, Herta Müller (2009) and Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).  In addition to these four writers, we will also consider the works of Graham Greene, V.S. Naipaul, Chinua Achebe, Jessica Hagedorn, Nuruddin Farah, Julia Alvarez, Junot Díaz, and Mohammed Hanif.   Primary texts include both Anglophone and translated novels.  Three central questions will guide our readings:  1) What are the connections between oppressive regimes and literary expression -- between violence and aesthetics?   2) What formal strategies do writers in these situations use to manage the complex and sometimes dangerous political content of their works?  3)  Is there a dictator-novel canon that can help us understand the contemporary novel within what the critic Franco Moretti has called a world-system of literature?  Graded requirements include a bibliographic report, a short interpretive essay (1500 words) and a longer term paper (3000 words).