Things Fall Apart: Post-Colonialism and the Novel
600 Vanderbilt Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
From Egypt to Colombia, India, and Nigeria, the novel has been central to the construction of post-colonial identities and political imaginaries. While often regarded as the pre-eminent literary form of 19th century European bourgeois society–an imaginative space in which individuals forge new possibilities and heroically chart their own fates–writers from the Global South have used the novel as critical tool for challenging foundational assumptions about gender, nation, religion, progress, and statehood — and yes, even individualism itself. In this course, we will consider the means through which the post-colonial novel has created new critical perspectives that destabilize the self-serving claims of both imperial masters and native elites.
Through a close reading of four, critically-acclaimed novels and associated scholarly works, this course will explore different strategies that post-colonial writers have adapted as they have made the novel their own. We will sample this broad spectrum of literature by reading works from African and Middle Eastern contexts, including Tayyib Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, Emile Habibi’s The Secret Life of Saeed: the Pessoptimist, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and Sun’allah Ibrahim’s The Committee. Paying close attention both to formal qualities and interpretive possibilities, we will ask: How do the works engage with fundamental questions of identity, political life, and tradition in their respective colonial and post-colonial contexts? To what extent how are the interventions of post-colonial writers instructive not merely for the Global South, but universally? And how have these writers deployed a narrative form so thoroughly tied to the history of imperialism to”write back to Empire”? Through primary readings and short theoretical reflections from thinkers and artists such as Edward Said, Mahmoud Darwish, Aijaz Ahmad, and Bill Ashcroft, we will consider these questions alongside those of power, identity, and authenticity in the aftermath of colonial rule.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
March 07 — March 28, 2017