The Colonial and the Postcolonial

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“The Colonial and the Postcolonial”

English 483/683 Topics in British Literature

Spring 2007 (3 credits)
M. G. Aune

320D Minard Hall

231-7176 Office Hours: 2-3 MWF
Course Description and Objectives

This course is designed to provide intensive study of a special theme, form, period, or group of writers central to the formation of British literature. May be repeated for credit with change of topic. The focus of this section of the course is British novels of the late 19th and 20th centuries, with an emphasis on colonialism and postcolonialism. We will look at a selection of fictional texts beginning with the period prior to World War I, when the British Empire was at its apex. We will then move forward chronologically as the Empire dwindled, forcing Britain to rethink its national identity.

By the end of the course, you should have a knowledge of the various discourses of late British colonialism and early and recent British postcolonialism. You will also practice and refine your ability to make scholarly presentations, conduct scholarly research, and write scholarly papers.
Requirements and Methods

This course will be conducted as a seminar, with each participant taking equal responsibility for the conduct of class. You are expected to have read each text prior to class and to be prepared to discuss it at length. Each of you will keep a reading journal and make a presentation to the class on a cultural, theoretical, or historical topic relevant to the course material. There will also be a final, researched term paper. Requirements for graduate students are described below.

Grading (undergraduate) (graduate) Scale

Reading Journal 100 points Reading Journal 100 points A 100-90 %

Presentation 100 points Presentation 100 points B 89-80 %

Term Paper 100 points Term Paper 200 points C 79-70 %

Total 300 points Total 400 points D 69-60 %

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Graham Greene, The Quiet American

V.S. Naipaul, The Middle Passage

J. G. Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur

E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

J.M. Coetzee, Foe

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism


A dictionary (bring to every class)

Sticky notes

Students with Special Needs

Any students with disabilities or other special needs that need special accommodations in this course are asked to share these concerns with me as soon as possible.

Academic Honesty

I assume that all work you turn in for this course is yours, and any material that you have acquired from an outside source is documented properly. Failure to do so is considered plagiarism and will result in possible failure of the course. See NDSU University Senate Policy, Section 335: Code of Academic Responsibility and Conduct

Late Papers

Late papers will lose ten points per day until they are turned in. You are responsible for turning in all work assigned in this class. Failure to do so will result in failing this class.

Attendance and Participation

Prompt and consistent attendance is an important part of this course. Not only are you responsible for material covered in class, you are responsible for actively participating in each class meeting. Coming late is disruptive to discussion and especially to group work. If something does happen you must contact me, via phone, answering machine or email within 24 hours. You are still responsible for what happened in a missed class.

Participation includes no only contributing to class discussion, it also covers prompt attendance, listening and responding constructively to your classmates, attending class prepared to discuss the readings, and bringing your books to every class meeting.
Paper Format

Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are to be type-written, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, in twelve-point Times font. Your name, the date, the class, my name and the assignment are to be at the top of the first page. Do not forget to title your work. Any papers longer than one page must have page numbers and be stapled.


Your presentation is to be a twenty-minute talk on a topic of cultural, historical, or theoretical importance to the course material. The presentation should be informative, organized, and rehearsed. You should provide handouts of important points and include a bibliography. Your score will be based on the focus, comprehensiveness and organization of your presentation. If you would like a computer and projector for power-point or web access, let me know at least a week ahead of time. We will work together to generate a list of possible topics and dates for these presentations during the first two weeks of class as we start our engagement with the material.

In addition to making a presentation, graduate students will provide three open-ended questions designed to initiate class discussion on either their presentation topic or the text assigned for that day.
Reading Journal

This is a type-written collection of your writings about the texts and theories we will be studying. You will make at least two 250 word entries on the seven primary literary texts. I am interested in your reaction to the work as related to the ideas of colonialism, post-colonialism, and identity. How is Britain represented in the text? The rest of the world? Does the text seem to have anything in common with other texts we have read? I do not want to read your gut reaction or your thoughts off the top of your head. These entries will be based on your opinion, but you must support your opinion with textual evidence such as identification of literary elements, quotations or paraphrases. As the class develops, you are welcome to refer to class discussions, other texts, and the theories we are examining.

I will check your journals periodically throughout the semester, so be certain to update them regularly and bring them to every class.
Graduate student requirement

Along with the journal entries above, graduate students will identify, research, and define ten critical terms for the study of post-colonial literature. The sources of the definitions must be cited and may not be on-line.

Term Paper

This is to be a fifteen to twenty page, 3,750-5,000 word, formal research paper. Rather than provide you with a list of topics, I want you to generate your own research questions based on your reading journals and class discussion. Ideally, the paper will be an engagement with one or more of the course texts. The research question should be well-researched (at least five sources), and properly documented in MLA or Chicago style. If you have any questions about format, citation, or research practices, do not hesitate to see me. You will turn in a one-page abstract of your paper about three-quarters of the way through the term. This is to be a brief description of your project including your research question, potential answers to the question, and a bibliography. This is all tentative, however. Your question may change as you continue to research, think, and write. The term paper is due on Monday of final examination week.

Graduate student requirement

The term paper is to be twenty to twenty-five pages, (5,000 – 5,750 words) and include an annotated bibliography and at least ten sources. Otherwise, the assignment is the same as above.


While I have not noted it, I expect you to read the relevant introductions and section heads for each assignment.

Week 1

Heart of Darkness

Week 2

Heart of Darkness

Things Fall Apart

Week 3

Things Fall Apart

Week 4

Things Fall Apart

Week 5

A Passage to India

Week 6

A Passage to India (film)

Week 7

The Siege of Krishnapur

Week 8

The Siege of Krishnapur

Week 9

Middle Passage

Week 10

Middle Passage

Week 11

The Quiet American

Week 12

The Quiet American

Abstract for Term paper due

Week 13

Culture and Imperialism

Week 14

Culture and Imperialism


Week 15


Week 16


Monday of Final Examination Week: Term paper due

Subject to Revision

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