World Literature in English--
Contemporary Indian, Caribbean and Canadian Literatures:
(De-)Colonization, National Identity and Migration
Spring, 1998, Kate Liu; see Map
Course Description 
Relevant Links 
A Note on Pedagogy
 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.)  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 cercerns there are: influences of colonization, possibilities of decolonization and defining national identity, power relations (between the colonizer and the colonized, dominant group and minorities).   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 (Â÷´²±Ú¸s). 

      To do a focused survey of world literatures in English, this course chooses literatures (short stories, novel excerpts and poems)  in the Indian subcontinent (including Pakistan and India), the Caribbean area (including Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica), and Canada, 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  Map.)   Our central questions are: 

  • What is colonization?  Is de-colonization possible?
  • How is national identity defined after the end of official colonization?  Can traditional culture not be contaminated by colonial culture?
  • What gets involved in immigration?  Identity crisis or cultural exchange/transformation, social mobility/climbing or different forms of racism?
       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 Sargarso Sea, Exotica ), and popular songs (e.g. Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen) will be used to help us visualize, enter and understand the national cultures.  You are also encouraged to bring in other relevant texts from popular culture of these areas. 

      As we move from Indian subcontinent to the Caribbean, and then to Canada, the diasporic writers (e.g. Indian-Caribbean, African-Caribbean, Indian-Caribbean-Canadian) will help connect the different regions.  At the end, with discussion of Chinese-Canadian texts, we hope to come back to Taiwan and discuss local engagement in the issues we focus on in class; that is, (de-)colonization, national identity and migration. 

 Tentative Syllabus & Course Notes
Author & Text 
Issues & Supplements
I. India and Pakistan
1. 2/26
  • General Introduction: Diaspora & "The Empire Writes Back"  
  • India: cultural, historical background
  • Indian poems
    2. 3/5
    Narayan: short stories & excerpt from The Man-Eater of God 
    religion & village life
    3.  3/12
    Salman Rushdie: excerpt from The Midnight's Children 
    Salaam Bombay 
    City, children, & India's national identity 
    4. 3/19
    Sara Suleri: excerpt from Meatless Days Partition, Pakistan & women's identities¡@
    5. 3/26 
    N. Bissoondath: "Digging Up the Mountains" "Insecurity"  
    B. Mukherjee: "The Lady from Lucknow"
    Experience of migration  Cf. "Security" (Bissoondath)¡@
    6.  4/2
    II. the Caribbean 
    7. 4/9 
    (Mid-Term Week)
  • Group Report I: Cultural Identity & Representation of India or Indian Women or other relevant topics (See Suggested Texts) : Masala 
  • The Caribbean: cultural, historical backgrounds of Barbados, Trinidad & Jamaica 
  • Caribbean Poetry: examples of dub poetry: 

  • "dis poem"; "Black and White"; etc. 
  • The Mighty Sparrow "Dan in the Man in the Van"
  • language & identity 
    Cf. Linton Kwesi Johnon's poems
    8.  4/16
    Jean Rhys (Dominique) excerpt from The Wide Sargasso Sea stories of growth; slavery & creole identity¡@
    9. 4/23
    Sam Selvon  (Trinidad) "Waiting for Aunty to Cough" 
    Jamaica Kincaid (Antiguua)  "Annie John" 
    Dionne Brand (Trinidad) "Sans Souci"
    stories of growth,   colonization & postcolonial identities
    10, 4/30
    Sugar Cane Alley
    Bob Marley and Jamaica and 
    The Carnival by Wyclef Jean (Haiti)
    stories of growth,   colonization & postcolonial identities
    11,  5/7
    The Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto 
    "Griff!" (A. Clarke-Barbados) "Blossom" (Dionne Brand)  "Dancing" (Bossoondath)
    Cf. "On the Eve of Uncertain Tomorrow"¡@
    III. Canada
    12 5/14
  • Group Report II Caribbean Disapora and Survival  (See Suggested Texts): Rude
  • Canada:  , Toronto
  • poems by Margaret Atwood, Earle Birney & Leonard Cohen
  • Canadian duality, two solitudes¡@
    13. 5/21
    A. Clarke "The Canadian Experience" 
    M. Laurence "Rain Child"
    What is the Canadian?¡@ 
    Cf. "Cape Breton is the Thought Control Centre of Canada"  
    14. 5/28
    Michael Ondaatje from Running in the Family & The English Patien
    SKY Lee from Disappearing Moon Cafe
    Immigrant expeirence¡@
    15. 6/4
    D. Cheong "The Concubine's Children" & 
    Group Report III ¡m¯B¥Í¡n 
    Early & recent Chinese immigrants 
    Cf. Mina Shum Double Happiness
    16. 6/11
     Group ReportVI Issues related to Immigrants' (of Chinese Descent or Immigrants to Canada) Cultural Identity (See Suggested Texts)
    17.  6/18
      Final Exam (Take Home Exam)
      picture adapted from Post_Imperial Web
    Textbook: A Reader

    Requirements and Grading Policy:

    1. Active participation & 3 reflection journals--30%

    2. Reading before class and active participation in class is essential.  Any late or absence will affect your final grade.   If you have to be absent, please let me know beforehand.  Journal amount will be increased if there is not enough discussion in class.
    3. One group report on a topic of your own choice. --30%
    4. A take-home exame--40%
    Issues for Discussion & Group Report (to be updated as the class develops) and possible texts to choose:
    Group Report I: Cultural Identity & Representation of India or Indian Women
    Films: In Custody, Masala, Mississippe Masala, My Beautiful Laundrette
    Literature: Passage to India, Passage to Lahore, other chapters from Meatless Days, short stories by Rushdie & Narayan, 
    Group Report II: Caribbean Disapora and Survival
    Films: Rude, Soul Survivor, My Mother's Place
    Literature: A lot!  Please see me.
    Group Report III: Issues related to Immigrants' (of Chinese Descent or Immigrants to Canada) Cultural Identity
    Canadian films on immigrants: A lot,  e.g. The Adjuster, ExoticaLulu.
    Chinese diaspora: Double Happiness, Mom, Mona and Me, m¯B¥Í¡n Floating Life , ¡m·R¦b¥L¶mªº©u¸`¡n, ¡m¤T­Ó¤k¤Hªº¬G¨Æ¡n, etc.
    Literature: A lot!  Please see me.

    Kate Chiwen Liu ¼B¬ö¶²¡@

    Office: 124¡@¡@¡@¡@¡@ 
    Office Hours: M. 9:00-12:00,¡@¡@¡@¡@¡@         ¡@ F. 9:00-12:00 
    TEL: 2903-1111, ext. 3676¡@¡@¡@¡@ 
    (H) 2528-2570; fax: 2528-4163 
    Please feel free to write to me, call me
    or make an appointment with me!¡@
    Class Time:¡@
    ¡@Thurs. 1:30 -4:30¡@ Credit: 3
    A note on the pedagogy of this course
    Q: Is it possible to teach World Literature in English? 
    A: No, unless there is a focus in theme.  No because World Literature in English includes so many regions and nations and culture, and the Yes is given under the condition that a proper theme is chosen to allow the teacher to set up a manageable context. 

    Q: Why are you teaching "Indian Literature" when you are not an Indian, nor have you been to India or know any Indian languages? 
    A: No, I am not teaching Indian, nor Pakistani, literature, and definitely not in the way an Indian academic would teach it.  I am focusing on the literature written by Indian diaspora (see definition of Diaspora). 

    Q: But are you sure your interpretation of their culture (Indian, or Indian diasporic) is correct?  
    A: No, I cannot be 100% sure, and that is why I need to be careful in learning and researching about their culture.  
    On the other hand, what is proper or correct interpretation but interpretation given and accepted in a given historical/social context?  At the same time I try to understand the other cultures, I retain the right to interpret the texts and culture from a Taiwanese perspectiveTo borrow Hans-Georg Gadamer's terms, my interpretation is inevitably and actively a fusion of horizons. .