World Literatures in English: Race and Gender Relations 
in Contemporary Indian Subcontinent, South Africa and the Caribbean Area

Fall, 2002, Kate Liu  

Cultures and Map

picture adapted from Post_Imperial Web

India & Pakistan
South Africa
The Caribbean Area
Glossary of Terms Musical Examples

  Course Description
As English majors, we need to know that "English" is not always British, and "American"--not necessarily the U.S.  How about English Literature?  British and U.S. literature?  In the past, maybe, but now in the age of postcolonialism -- definitely no.

     English literatures are all the literatures written in English in 1.) the U.S. and U.K., and in 2.) the English-speaking countries in areas ranging from Africa,  South Asia, South-East Asia, East Asia (e.g. Hong Kong), South Pacific area (e.g. Australia & New Zealand), the Caribbean area, to North America (e.g. Canada).   (See Map above.)  To distinguish the latters from the formers, we call the latters -- world literatures written in English, or postcolonial (Third World) literature in English, or New English literatures.   

      Since world literatures written in English cover so many nations with their distinct national/racial cultures, it is hardly possible to generalize about them, not to mention teaching them all in one course.  These literatures, however,  do have common concerns, their nations having all experienced imperialism and colonization, and their peoples, immigration and frequently more than once.   Among the common concerns there are: influences of colonization, possibilities of decolonization and defining national identity, power relations (between the colonizer and the colonized, dominant group and minorities, different genders of different races).   These national literatures,  moreover, are linked to each other by the large flows of immigrants of Chinese, African and/or Indian descent--what is called Chinese, African and Indian diasporas (離散族群). 

      To do a focused survey of world literatures in English, this course chooses literatures (short stories, novel excerpts and poems)  in South Africa, the Indian subcontinent (including Pakistan and India), and the Caribbean area (including Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica), as well as those by diasporic/immigrant writers from these areas such as Salman Rushdie, Jean Rhys, Michael Ondaatje, V.S. Naipaul., etc.  (See the black areas on the Map.)   Our central questions are: 

  •   What is colonization?  Is de-colonization possible?  How are colonizers (e.g. Columbus) and colonial writings (e.g. Robinson Crusoe & Jane Eyre) revised by post-colonial writers?

  •   How is national identity defined after the end of official colonization?  How is nation-building frustrated by internal racial conflicts and neo-imperialism?  How do national/racial conflicts affect children, women and minorities? 
      What gets involved in immigration?  Identity crisis or cultural exchange/transformation, social mobility/climbing or different forms of racism?
     Of these central concerns, two themes especially help to connect the three areas, and relate them to us: colonization and diaspora.  As we move from South Africa, to Indian subcontinent and then to the Caribbean, we will not only introduce the history of colonization in these areas and their cultures, but also examine how postcolonial writers critique the prejudices implied in colonial literature and literary education.   Also, with colonization comes large-wave migration of colonizers and laborers, which intensifies the unequal gender and racial relationships the diasporic writers (e.g. Indian-Caribbean, African-Caribbean, Indian-Caribbean-Canadian) help us understand.   Finally, with the work of some writers or filmmakers of Chinese diaspora, we hope to bring "home" to ourselves the issues we Taiwanese are always already deeply engaged in: that is, race and gender relations in (de-)colonization and migration. 

     Heavy reading (each week about 50 pages' prose writing or fewer for poems) will be required to avoid the superficial understanding of these literatures.  On the other hand, history, films (e.g. Salaam Bombay, Wide Sargasso Sea ), and popular songs (e.g. Bob Marley, rap music) will be used to help us visualize, enter and understand their cultures.  You are also encouraged to bring in other relevant texts from popular culture of these areas. 

Textbook: A Reader, Films and Documentaries (Used in Class)

  Requirements and Grading Policy:
    Reading before class and active participation in class is essential.  Any late or absence will affect your final grade.   Three absences constitute reason for failing the course.  If you have to be absent, please let the teachers know beforehand. No plagiarism!

Active participation and One group report-- 20%
Bi-weekly online journals -- 30%
A take-home exam -- 40%