English 6115                                                                                                               Fall 2011

Between the Posts: Intersections of the Postmodern                                     T 5:30-8:00

and the Postcolonial in British Commonwealth Literature                             TLC 2237


Dr. Maria Doyle

Office Hours: T/Th 10-12:15, 2-3:15 and by appointment

Phone: 678-839-4853

Email: mdoyle@westga.edu

Web: www.westga.edu/~mdoyle


The latter half of the twentieth century is marked both by the dissolution of the British Empire and by the rise of a literary aesthetic of multiplicity and metatextuality. This course will explore the points of contact between these trends by looking at the intersections of the postcolonial and the postmodern. For formerly colonized nations, reconstructing a national self is never a simple “return” to the supposed whole that existed before colonization, and this course will examine how that process is expressed through the aesthetic impulse to embrace fluidity, pastiche and play. Discussions will begin with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness—a classic intersection of the colonial and the modern—and will examine how the text’s thematic and structural innovations speak both to an anxiety about the implications of British participation in the co­lonial project and to a broader concern about the unstable space of modernity. This anchor will help students to unpack the later developments that will be our main subject: what writers from former colonies—both settler and native cultures—are responding to in their revisions of narrative strategies, literary dialect and political and cultural value. Readings will engage students in discussion of writers from Canada, India, Ireland and the Caribbean, and the course will conclude by returning to London to consider how that center is itself refashioned by these literary and cultural developments.


Learning outcomes and program goals are accessible through the English Department's website at: http://www.westga.edu/~engdept/fr/CourseGuid/6115.html



Research Paper (50%): Students will complete a 15-18 page research paper on a topic of their own devising related to the course material. Papers will be preceded by a two-page prospectus that will outline the primary text or pair of texts and major secondary sources the student plans to use and set out the tentative argument of the essay as a whole. Complete papers will follow current MLA guidelines. Approach this paper as a preliminary version of an academic article, your entry into the conversation represented by the secondary works on this seminar syllabus. The prospectus will be due several weeks before the finished project. As a preliminary exercise, it will not be graded, but I will offer commentary on your proposed topic and suggestions for further research; failure to turn in a prospectus on time will have an effect on your grade for the completed essay. Final papers will be assessed on the depth of your argument, your use of research materials and the quality of your writing.


Students are strongly encouraged to begin thinking about paper topics early in the semester with an eye to submitting a proposal for the British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies Conference in Savannah. The conference is in February, with a proposal deadline in mid-fall. One of our class sessions will be set aside for discussion of conference preparation, research strategies and related topics.


Seminar Participation (15%): In a graduate seminar, active participation in discussions is of great importance. Students should have read assigned material before class meetings and must attend regularly; more than two absences will have a negative impact on your final grade. Most importantly, students are expected to contribute constructively to the conversation about the texts by asking questions and responding to ideas presented by both the instructor and other seminar participants.


Response Essays (20%): Students will write two short (3-4 page) papers during the first eight weeks of the term. Each of these papers will involve your application of a theoretical idea to a specific literary text. Papers will be assessed on how well you narrow your focus and elaborate your position with relevant analysis of primary and secondary material as well as how clearly you express your ideas. This assignment is designed to give you graded feedback on your writing--both style and content--so that you will have a good sense of the course expectations in this area before you embark on the major research project.


Oral Presentations (15%): Students will prepare two oral presentations during the semester, one a class presentation on a specific assigned text (students will sign up for specific dates) and the second a presentation on their research in progress for the research workshop at the end of the semester.  Further instructions will be distributed in class.


Academic Integrity Statement: Academic dishonesty involves any attempt on a writer's part to claim ideas and/or specific phrasing that s/he has gotten from elsewhere as original or to fabricate sources or evidence so as to make an argument sound stronger. Students are expected to adhere to standards of academic integrity in this course. All external research for presentations and papers must be properly cited; failure to cite sources for factual data or critical ideas, inadequately attributed use of another's ideas or words or submission of work that does not represent your own thought and writing will be considered violations of this policy. Such violations will be taken seriously, and students who breach this policy risk their course grade and potentially also their status in their program. In keeping with departmental and university honor policies, all cases of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Chair of the English Department and to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs as well as the appropriate director of the student's graduate program. In short, do your own work and when you use outside information, provide accurate citations for it. For more on the English Department's plagiarism policy, see http://www.westga.edu/~engdept/Plagiarism/pladef.html.


Schedule of Readings:

Students should have completed all primary and secondary reading assignments by the date they are listed on the syllabus. Most secondary readings come from two readers: Ania Loomba’s Colonialism/Postcolonialism and Simon Malpas’s The Postmodern. These readings have been front-loaded on the schedule, so that we may return to and further develop analysis of these ideas as the semester progresses. As students work on developing research topics, they should use these readers to help identify appropriate theoretical materials for exploration.


The Colonial, the Modern and their Posts

August 23       Introduction

Aug 30            Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

                        Secondary: Loomba, Chapter 1; Malpas, Chapter 2


Re-Voicing the Canon

Sep 6               Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

                        Secondary: Loomba, Chapter 2

Sep 13             Derek Walcott, Dream on Monkey Mountain

                        Response essay #1 due


Building and Rebuilding After Empire: Narratives and Nations

Sep 20             Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Secondary: Malpas, from Chapter 1 (“Reading the Postmodern Text”) and Chapter 4

Sep 27             Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Secondary: Loomba, from Chapter 3 (“Nationalisms and Pannationalisms”)


Oct 4               Workshop on Research and Conferences

                        Response essay #2 due


The Settler Perspective: Nation, Fantasy Worlds and Disrupted Identities

Oct 11             Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

                        Secondary: Malpas, Chapter 3

Oct 14             Last day to withdraw with a W

Oct 18             Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

                        Secondary: Malpas, Chapter 5


Seeking a Non-colonial World

Oct 25             Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient


Postmodern Critiques Postcolonial

Nov 1              Martin McDonagh, The Beauty Queen of Leenane


Returning to London in a Postmodern, Postcolonial World

Nov 8              Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Nov 15                        Zadie Smith, White Teeth


Nov 29                        Research Workshop


Tuesday, Dec. 6: Papers due by 5 pm