The Dictator Novel as Global Form
In this seminar, we will explore the ways in which twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers across the globe have responded to tyrants and tyrannical regimes. Our focus will be a set of outstanding contemporary novels from Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. We will begin with the Latin American boom writers of the 1960s and 1970s (represented on the syllabus by Manuel Puig and Gabriel García-Márquez) before moving on to two 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 as well as poems, plays, scripted films, and documentaries that represent or describe totalitarian regimes. Two 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? Graded requirements include several short response papers, a bibliographic project, and a long-form research paper (3000 words).