Postcolonial Literature

Full year course, offered every other year
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 1-3

1. Rationale

It is increasingly apparent that if we in the West, and particularly in the U.S., continue to live in ignorance of the cultures and political situations of the countries of the Third World and Eastern Europe, we will not only deprive ourselves of the extremely valuable knowledge of rich cultural heritages distinct from our own, but also we will land ourselves in still greater worldwide political chaos than we already have.

In recognition of this, Three Worlds’ Lit., which includes contemporary works from the Third World, Eastern Europe, and “the West,” attempts to (1) expose students to literature of foreign countries, particularly non-Western countries, (2) focus on works that reveal something significant about the present state of the culture and society of the country in which the work is set, and (3) show where there is “overlap,” be it discordant or harmonious, between these three “worlds.”


2. Topics and Themes Emphasized

Some of the broad themes in the course are as follows:

• the terror that is part of many people’s everyday lives

• the ways people deal with intrusive, corrupt governments

• the positive spirit opposed to unbearable living circumstances

• the complexity, seemingly insolubility, of problems

• the conflicts, sometimes humorous, that arise when one culture interacts with another

• the difficulty of successful revolution

• the ignoring or destruction of history

• westernization vs. tradition

• the nature and impact of the miraculous revolution of ’89

• absurdity

• governments’ impact on art

The above are especially applicable to the Third World and Eastern Europe; themes stressed in the Western section of the course are:

• use/abuse of freedom

• decadence

• industrial and technological progress as a question mark

• impact on the other two worlds

• multicultural aspect of Western societies, especially the U.S.


3. Methods and Sample Assignments

Discussion is the primary class format. There is an occasional background or enrichment lecture.Students sometimes make presentations based on individual or group work. Guest speakers are sometimes brought in to enhance students’ understanding of the societies we study through literature.

Discussions usually derive from questions ranging from the very specific and technical–“What use is Argueta making of the bird imagery in One Day of Life ?–to the very broad–“Is the hope expressed in the novel justifiable? Is there hope?”

Assignments are on a similar continuum: “Write a letter to Martinez telling him what you think of his actions in the village.” “Write an essay that reflects on Soyinka’s statement, “The most ambitious enemies of humanity are the absolutist interpreters of the Divine Will, be they Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, born-agains of every religious calling” (xv).

4. Expectations for Students

Students should expect to read roughly twenty pages per night, although this will vary depending on the form of the work we are reading. Students will write a minimum of three papers per semester. Some of these papers will be in-class essay tests. There are frequent reading quizzes. Students will be assigned a longterm research project, due at the end of the year.


5. Reading List and Other Materials

One Day of Life, Argueta
The Official Story, Puenza (film)
“The Dog,” Alfaro
“To Jackie O. With All Our Love,” Ramirez
“The Perfect Game,” Ramirez
selected poems, Paz
selected poems, Neruda
selected poems, Cardenal
selected poems, Dorfman
Ghost Dances (dance performance video)
poems by various African poets
The Lion and the Jewel, Soyinka
A Bend in the River, Naipaul
Moolaade (film), Sembene
The Last Summer of Reason, Djaout
This Earth of Mankind, Pramoedya
“The Taste of Apples,” Hwang
“Who Am I,” Zong
“My Son, My Son,” Ru
“The Detour,” Tao
The White Snake, Tyan
“Eternal Prisoner Under Thunder Peak Pagoda”
“Chairman Mao is a Rotten Egg,” Chen
“The Execution of Mayor Yin,” Chen
Yellow Earth (film), Chen Kaige
To Live (film),
Zhang Yimou
Self-Portrait with Woman, Szczypiorski
Largo Desolato, Havel
The Canary and Other Tales of Martial Law, Nowakowski
documentary on Polish history
short stories(fables), Vatzlav, Mrozek
“Dry Run,” Tokareva
“New Europe” (excerpts), Granta
Requiem, Akhmatova
poems, Herbert
poems, Milosz
poems, Yevtushenko
Repentance (film), Abuladze
Nuclear Gulag (documentary)
“A World Split Apart,” Solzhenitsyn
Ceremony, Silko
Koyaanisqatsi, Reggio (film)

6. Bibliography

Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy in El Salvador, Bonner
Salvador, Didion
With the Contras, Dickey
The Jaguar Smile, Rushdie
Nicaragua: Poets and Politics (documentary)
Las Madres de la Plaza (documentary)
Open Veins of Latin America, Galeano
A Short History of Africa, Oliver and Fage
The Africans , Mazrui
From Under the Rubble, Solzhenitsyn
The Sacred Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life, Beck et al
Thought Reform: The Psychology of Totalism, Lifton
Amnesty International special report on Argentina (and other AI reports)
Nunca Mas
The Mute’s Soliloquy,

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