Class Profile: Postcolonial Literatures
Posted on Friday, February 26th, 2016 by Austin Gerth
This semester, as an extension of the research work I did this summer, I’m taking ENG 451 – Postcolonial Literatures. (I’ve alluded to the course — and the work I did helping to design one of its major projects — several times previously on this blog this year.)
There are probably some of you who don’t know what a “postcolonial literature” is. That’s okay: I’m going to tell you. “Postcolonial literatures” are, in a very reductive nutshell, the literary traditions of nations or groups of people who have been colonized; the “post” can refer to either “after gaining independence” or “after colonization begins”. Literary works that fall into this category tend to exhibit certain characteristics, like a preoccupation with struggles over both personal and national identity, or a questioning or even revisionist approach to historical material — presenting alternative points of view to the commonly accepted notions of how things occurred or what events mean.
In the course we read a number of works of literature from several different regions of the globe, and we discuss them in terms of postcolonial theory and their ramifications for understanding personal/political/societal issues in the world. On top of that reading and group discussion — which are both basically par for literature courses — we are also completing a major web design project in collaboration with the Technical Writing course that meets just downstairs from us in the business school. Our project, which I’ve written about previously, is to create a scholarly reference website providing contextual and interpretive information on the novel Star of the Sea, by the Irish author Joseph O’Connor. We started the really intensive phase of the project — that of researching and writing the content for the website — the week before break.