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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Balbir K Singh
ENGL 200
Seattle Campus

Reading Literary Forms

Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.

Class description


In his Keywords essay on Orientalism, Vijay Prashad writes: “The analytical category 'Orientalism' enables an analysis of the ambiguity of imperialism, which is driven by the twin goals of supremacy and liberation…The urge to liberate is as fundamental as the requirement to subordinate. What is forbidden in the Orientalism of our period is for the “native” to speak in its vital variety—and, because that voice is muted, the native might choose means that are unspeakable. That is the price of Orientalism.”


This course explores current configurations of orientalism and racial discourse through a critique of what Prashad calls the “twin goals of supremacy and liberation”, goals inherent to the logics of our current security state, imperial exploits, and various wars on ‘terror’. In order to explore what I call Orientalism’s afterlife, this course will approach material historically through a literary and cultural studies-based examination of colonialism, imperial war, and terror in the modern world. As such, the course locates and divides, though not very neatly: we begin with a short survey and study of the concepts of orientalism and race through literature, art, and criticism; move to a study of Algeria during the anti-colonial revolutionary movement of the early 1960s; and conclude with the present Global War on Terror. Thematic foci within our literary and critical study include: gendered and sexual dimensions of the colonial project; the concern over revolutionary violence; neo-colonial conceptions of liberation; and the relationship between race and religion in contemporary Orientalist discourse (specifically on Islamophobia).

Furthermore, we will not focus on any one literary or artistic form, rather exploring historical and contemporary Orientalist discourse in the novel, drama, film, visual art, theoretical writing, and critical thought. Our tentative reading/viewing list includes work by: Prashad, Edward Said, Eugene Delacroix, Tayeb Saleh, Gillo Pontecorvo, Jean Genet, Frantz Fanon, Daisy Rockwell, Patrick Porter, and Junaid Rana.

Texts to be purchased: Tayeb Saleh, Season of Migration to the North Jean Genet, The Screens

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This class will focus on the practice of close reading, and the subsequent translation of our analyses into well-crafted essays that make clear arguments based on evidence found in the text and other sources. Class time will be dedicated to comprehension, examination, close reading, and application of the texts we have read. Daily attendance, active participation, and a clear engagement with class materials are vital for your success in this course.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

This course fulfills the University of Washington’s W-requirement. It will include 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, most likely in the form of two, 5-7 page term papers. The course will also most likely include a presentation component, with the additional possibility of in-class quizzes, short writing assignments, etc.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Balbir K Singh
Date: 07/21/2012