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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Keith M Feldman
ENGL 316
Seattle Campus

Postcolonial Literature and Culture

Readings of major texts and writers in postcolonial literature and culture. Surveys some of the most important questions and debates in postcolonial literature, including issues of identity, globalization, language, and nationalism. Cultural focus may vary; see professor for specific details.

Class description

“Postcolonial Studies and the Presentness of the Past”

What is postcolonialism, and how might a critical understanding of the present be gained by asking such a question? This course takes as its starting point literary critic Robert Young’s influential claim: “The postcolonial is concerned with colonial history only to the extent that that history has determined the configurations and power structures of the present, to the extent that much of the world still lives in the violent disruptions of its wake, and to the extent that anti-colonial liberation movements remain the source and inspiration of its politics.”

This reading-intensive course will introduce students to the field of postcolonial studies. Our goal is not only to fill in empirical gaps about a seemingly distant region of the world—in our case, the Middle East and North Africa—though students will certainly gain knowledge of this region and its relation to other places. Nor will we attempt to survey the entire field of postcolonial studies, though students will learn many of its key concepts. At its core, our task, following Young, is to consider the relationship between knowledge and power, the continued contestations over the meaning and effects of colonization, its legacies, its after-images, and the creative forms of expression animating various dreams of freedom.

As a way to ask these questions, we will examine the cultural production of a group of post-World War II writers grappling with Euro-American interest in the Middle East and North Africa. Taking as a historical touchstone the rise of the non-aligned movement after 1955, key literary works produced about Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, and Lebanon will provide the ground for our inquiry. In turning to the literary, we will open up debates about language, form, representation, translation, and narrative. We will likewise investigate the meaning and utility of concepts of race, nation, religion, gender, sexuality, and class that legitimate colonial rule, as well as the recasting of such concepts in struggles against colonialism. Literary texts may include: Naguib Mahfouz, Midaq Alley; Tayeb Salih, Seasons of Migration to the North; Etel Adnan, Sitt Marie Rose; Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero; Suheir Hammad, ZaatarDiva; Rabih Alameddine, Koolaids: The Art of War; Assia Djebar, Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade. Works of history, theory and criticism may include selections from Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Robert Young, Ann Laura Stoler, Anne McClintock, Edward Said, Ella Shohat, Trinh T. Minh-Ha, David Scott, Saba Mahmood, and Timothy Mitchell.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


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 Keith M Feldman
Date: 04/30/2008