Postcolonial literature refers to the literature of the countries that were previously colonised, especially by European nations. Since independence these new countries have produced an exciting body of work that has led to enduring discussions in academia.
This course is designed to introduce you to the various aspects of this fascinating, yet highly contested, field. To understand the themes and concerns of postcolonial literature, we will look closely at novels about the family. With short visits to introductory postcolonial theory, we will examine the relationship between family stories and the nation. We will discuss why writers repeatedly narrate the family saga, the different ways in which contemporary postcolonial writers have depicted the family—sometimes even spanning generations—in their novels. If the family is a lens to understand and critique the nation, why do writers adopt this lens?
During the semester we will read Indian writer Ashapurna Debi’s family saga The First Promise: dramatic and riveting, it depicts the life of the child bride Satya in rural Bengal when India was under British colonial rule. The Harmony Silk Factory by Malaysian author Tash Aw explores a secret in the family through three voices in a gripping Faulknerian novel. In The Golden Age we will see the bloody birth of a new nation called Bangladesh through the lens of Rehana, with the horrific Liberation War of 1971 as backdrop, and in Half of a Yellow Sun, we will discuss the lives of twin sisters Olanna and Kainene during the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War. Eka Kurniawan’s humorous, magical novel will take us on a journey through the history of Indonesia from the Japanese occupation (1942) to the modern day through the eyes of a woman called Devi Ayu.
By the end of the semester, students should be able to frame arguments about novels and corroborate them with theoretical concepts. They will be able to identify and debate themes in postcolonial literature and understand a range of issues about colonialism.
1. The First Promise (1964), by Ashapurna Devi
2. Harmony Silk Factory (2005) by Tash Aw
3. A Golden Age (2006), by Tahmima Anam
4. Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5. Beauty is a Wound (2002) by Eka Kurniawan
6. Lyrics Alley (2012) by Leila Aboulela
In this course we will look closely at the family sagas from post-colonial nations. With short visits to introductory postcolonial theory, we will examine the relationship between family stories and the nation. We will discuss why writers repeatedly narrate the family saga, what are the different ways contemporary postcolonial writers have depicted the family—sometimes even spanning generations—in their novels? If the family is a lens to critique the nation state, why do writers adopt this lens? What kinds of counter histories/ narratives emerge through these family stories and do they question national narratives?