Courses Taught & Planned
ENG 171: GLOBAL LITERATURE IN ENGLISH
This class analyzes postcolonial texts through the lenses of morality and crime, law and lawlessness, and right and wrong. Students will explore literature’s potential to shape moral principles, taking as a case study the special relationship between morality and the novel. Because novels ask us to sympathize with the main character, they were helpful in establishing the following moral principles and laws: bans on violence, physical abuse and torture; beliefs in the sanctity of the human body; beliefs in self-determination and rights to life; and the notion that suffering in a fellow human is a cause for empathy.
But students also learn that the novel’s account of right and wrong is tied up with a single individual’s perspective—usually the narrator’s or the main character’s. That is, the reader gets only “one side” of the story, not the “full” or objective story. Given that this is the case, we’ll ask: what if our sympathy with the main character leads us to inadvertently condone a heinous crime? How can we be sure that we have been told the truth in a novel, and that characters are as right as they seem?
Pictured: Tessa Mars (Haitian), Praying for the Visa (2019)
ENG 338: TOPICS IN LITERATURE ("THE GLOBAL NOVEL")
In recent years, we’ve witnessed the rise of a new genre. Something more than postcolonial fiction, “the global novel” has been characterized as a type of transnational literature that is linguistically simple but narratively complex. Global novelists construct narratives in anticipation of a transnational audience. They erase marks of regionalism, writing to increase the ease comprehension for a culturally-distant reader. They license translations at the same time that they publish originals; indeed, some global novels appear first in translation, and later in the language in which they were composed.
This course introduces students to the complexity of contemporary transnational literature, a canon that eschews modernist obstructionism in favor of ease and access. We grapple with the new standards of literariness set by global novels, which describe material of intense difficulty in digestible prose. And we attempt to historicize this genre in the contemporary period, considering the details of digital technology and the global production network that helped it emerge.
ENG 370: LITERATURE ACROSS BORDERS
This course will introduce students to key texts from several literary traditions shaped by British colonialism. Colonialism, as we’ll learn, was a form of political control that brought new technologies, institutions and languages to the colonies while establishing relations of economic and racial oppression. As we engage with 20th- and 21st-century literature from South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa, we examine the relationship between economic conquest and literary form.
How do Nigerian novelists describe the intrusion represented by British imperialists? How do poets reconcile tropes originating in Jamaican folklore with the constraints of the British lyric, and what does that fusion amount to? How do writers of the formerly colonized world recover details about their ancestors when they are missing from official history? Are European literary forms appropriate for the representation of racism in South Africa or a strike in Senegal? By the course’s end, students will learn to see postcolonial literature as an agent capable of stirring moral sentiment and empathy; challenging ideas of racial or cultural superiority; and contributing to world-historical shifts, such as the break-up of empire.
ENG 491G: STUDIES IN THEORY ("POSTCOLONIAL AND GLOBAL THEORY")
Through this reading-intensive seminar students gain a foundation in postcolonial and global theory, an area of “theory” that explores topics of racial difference, colonial domination and capitalist expansion. We read in order to survey the field—taking in everything from early essays in postcolonial studies to cutting-edge accounts of globalization—but as we do, we attend with particular interest to the methodological commitments of our theorists. Guided by three unit divisions, the first called “Jacques Derrida,” the second “Michel Foucault” and the last “Fredric Jameson,” we ask what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Homi Bhabha gained from notable texts of deconstruction, such as Writing and Difference or “White Mythologies”? How did a book such as Foucault’s Madness and Civilization guide Edward Said when the latter proposed orientalism must be a “discourse”? And, finally, to what extent have Fredric Jameson’s theories of “a singular modernity” helped to move postcolonialism toward a more robust confrontation with uneven development and global inequality? This course will appeal to anyone with interests in studying American, British or postcolonial literature in a transnational frame.