LITR 5831 Multicultural Literature
lecture notes

Introductory Class Meeting





ID cards

Name (as you want it to appear--at least a first and last name)

contact information: email(s) plus or minus phone(s), US Mail

What degree are you seeking? Why this course?

Anything you want me to know about your semester, where you are in your studies, life, etc.?


Presentation preferences--"No preferences" is perfectly OK, but if you have preferences, details and options help

Preference for presentation? Discussion, Film, Poetry, Web Review?

Days, authors, subjects? Any information welcome . . . .

Any bad days when you shouldn't be assigned?

Any volunteers for next Wednesday?







Videos = Historicism



1940s Time Machine


From USA view:

1940s = Nazi-Jewish Holocaust, establishment of Israel, beginning of End-Times

(+ oil in Middle East, expansion of U.S. cities, highways, auto industry)


From British-French view:

1940s = Decline of British Empire, Independence & Partition of India, beginning of anti-colonial and post-colonial movements (decolonization)

Hong Kong 1997?


French Colonial Empire at height in 1920s-30s, 8.6 % of Earth’s land, many colonies in Africa—Heart of Darkness set in Belgian Congo, African colony of French-speaking Belgium—“the Scramble for Africa”

Wars in 1950s-60s in Algeria, Vietnam


By 1922, the British Empire held sway over a population of about 458 million people, one-quarter of the world's population, and covered more than 13,000,000 square miles (33,670,000 km˛): approximately a quarter of the Earth's total land area.


The rise and fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi

By Peter Finn, Washington Post, Thursday, August 25, 11:20 AM

The fall of Moammar Gaddafi ends the rule of one of the most mercurial and menacing figures in recent history — the “mad dog” sponsor of international terrorism who allied himself with the George W. Bush administration’s war on terror; the pan-Arabist who at one time or another alienated nearly all of his Arab brethren; and the self-styled revolutionary philosopher who, in the end, was just another violent dictator clinging to power.

With his trademark sunglasses, flowing robes and jut-jawed insouciance, Col. Gaddafi — who bestowed the rank on himself after seizing power in 1969 — has long been one of the world’s more recognizable figures. For many Americans, he is also the reviled author of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. And in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, fearing U.S. anger and needing international investment after years of sanctions, Gaddafi made himself over as a friend of the West, disavowing weapons of mass destruction and sharing intelligence on al-Qaeda.

Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, called Gaddafi a “conspirator” who thought it important that “nobody could guess what he could do next.” Gaddafi exploited his unpredictability to keep his enemies off balance, and he reportedly survived numerous plots and assassination attempts to become one of the longest-serving rulers in the world until rebels drove him from power this week.

In “Libya’s Qaddafi: The Politics of Contradiction,” Libyan political scientist Mansour O. El-Kikhia wrote: “The rules of the game in Libya continually change” and Gaddafi’s “genius . . . is his ability to maintain and manipulate this chaos . . . because the survival of his regime hinges on continued turbulence.”

Gaddafi never lost his reputation for eccentricity, traveling overseas with a swaggering, all-female security detail and pushing for such seemingly quixotic goals as the abolition of Switzerland. In his first visit to the United States, for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in 2009, he called in a rambling 90-minute speech for the unification of Israel and the Palestinian territories in a state he called “Isratine.”

The rapprochement with the West culminated that year when Gaddafi was invited as a guest to a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrial countries in Italy. He even shook hands with President Obama.

But there was little internal political reform to match the diplomatic offensive. Gaddafi continued his one-man rule atop a system that purported to delegate power to “people’s committees,” which he championed in his “Green Book.” He claimed to have relinquished power in 1977 and said Libya was “self-managed by the people.” In fact, his security forces quickly crushed any hint of dissent.

“I consider it a guide for all humanity,” said Gaddafi of his manifesto, in a rare interview with Western reporters in 2004. “One day, the whole world will be a republic of masses, topple down all governments and parliaments.”

After 41 years, that day has arrived for Gaddafi, the “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution.”

Gaddafi was born in 1942 into a Bedouin family. As a young man, he was inspired by the anti-colonialism and socialism of Gamal Abdel Nasser in neighboring Egypt. At school, he formed friendships with a group of young men who would become his co-conspirators against Libya’s pro-Western monarchy. Gaddafi attended military college and spent several months getting further military training in Britain before being commissioned.

On Sept. 1, 1969, he and a group of young officers seized power in a bloodless revolution. The charismatic Gaddafi, only 27 at the time, soon emerged as the country’s paramount leader and quickly tried to establish himself as an anti-Western iconoclast. He forced out U.S. and British military forces and, over the next two decades, invited in every shade of radical from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Irish Republican Army.

Gaddafi was an early enthusiast of an Arab political union and saw himself as Nasser’s natural successor. But nearly all of his efforts to become an Arab liberator floundered, and Libya was often as isolated from its neighbors as it was from the West. The country had small shooting wars with Egypt, Chad and Tunisia. Gaddafi clashed with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. He called for the overthrow of the royal family in Saudi Arabia.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Gaddafi was infamous as a leading sponsor of international terrorism. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan, who called Gaddafi the “mad dog of the Middle East,” bombed the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi after Libya was linked to the bombing of a nightclub in West Berlin that killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman.

Gaddafi said his 15-month-old adopted daughter was killed in the U.S. attack.

In 1987, a ship carrying 150 tons of arms from Libya and destined for the IRA was seized off the coast of France. It subsequently emerged that several other Libyan arms shipments had reached Ireland.

In the wake of the Lockerbie bombing, Libya was subject to U.S. and United Nations sanctions after Gaddafi refused to hand over two Libyans, including an intelligence officer, implicated in the terrorist attack. The intelligence officer, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was eventually turned over and convicted. And in 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the “actions of its officials” in a submission to the United Nations. Gaddafi continued to insist that although Libya accepted that one of its citizens was involved in the attack, it did “not mean the state is responsible for those actions.”

But by 2003, Gaddafi was on his way to a major reorientation of his relations with the West, particularly the United States. He was among the first Arab leaders to condemn the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Osama bin Laden was an old foe, and Libya had issued an international arrest warrant for the al-Qaeda leader in March 1998, several months before the group’s first major assault on the United States: the embassy bombings in East Africa.

Libya soon announced that it was abandoning a secret program to develop nuclear weapons, and it destroyed chemical munitions. The George W. Bush administration lifted sanctions, and foreign investment and international leaders, including Britain’s Tony Blair and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, flooded in.

“He’s perfected a persona, and part of that was to be strategically unpredictable,” said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Gaddafi characterized the change as one of choice, not necessity.

“No one imposed isolation on Libya in the past,” he told the group of Western reporters. “We Libyans chose to isolate ourselves from the West in support of causes of liberation, like black South Africa and the Palestinians.”

The strategic change brought few benefits for ordinary Libyans except the ability to see the outside world more clearly and compare it with their own.

“One of the things that happened was that Libya was opened up to satellite television,” Alterman said. So the question, he said, became: “Why don’t we have the prosperity that other oil countries have?” Libya has an estimated 46 billion barrels of oil reserves, the ninth-largest holding in the world.


Staff writer Robert Barnes in Washington and special correspondent Caryle Murphy contributed to this report.




overview of subject

terminology of course title unfamiliar to most Americans

remember confusion as something you can write about in your midterm


Why haven’t you heard of colonial and postcolonial literature?


This area of study is in place at most major research universities in the U.S., BUT . . .

Most of its leading scholars are in other countries (or come to the U.S. from other countries),

and most of the original scholarship in the area took place outside the U.S., esp. in Commonwealth Countries (Australia, England, New Zealand), in France, and the formerly colonized countries themselves.


Why those countries?

Other developed countries besides the USA are typically more aware of their place in an international system or order. Colonialism and postcolonialism are parts of their history, acknowledged and studied as such.


Why not the USA?

The United States has more of an us-and-them attitude, America and everybody else, either Americans or wannabes except for terrorists

“us” = the uncorrupted, constantly reborn truth, innocence and ignorance, and

“them” = corrupted and burdened by history, memory, strife, limits, compromise, etc.

(America as non-historic reality--always reinventing itself, escaping past, getting born again)


See Objective 3





Colonial: app. 1500s-1900s, but reaching its peak in the late 19th, early 20th centuries; period(s) of history in which the developed world of Europe (and/or USA) colonized and revolutionized the undeveloped world

[+ earlier empires? Ottoman, Mughal, Mayan, Japanese, Roman, Ming?]

Postcolonial: 20th century, but especially post-World War 2, 1940s-1960s


Trigger for change:

Nationalist movement in India, centered in figure of Gandhi, starting around 1900 (though some phases earlier)

World Wars 1 & 2, which can be interpreted as battles for empire 

Postwar era (1940s-60s)--campaigns and wars of liberation, decolonization

French from Algeria

Brits from Suez Canal

various African colonies kick out colonizers and become nations on their own



Major Events:


Partition of British India: 15 August 1947

“India” to that point was more or less the entire Indian Subcontinent, which now contains the nations of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Burma.

India was part of the British Empire, which centralized administration, developed transportation (esp. railroads) and communications.

Before British Empire, “India” was more of a region than a nation, with many Indian states of various ethnic groups, religious and political traditions.


African Nationalist Movement: from 1958-1964, 26 African nations became independent from European colonial administration or rule.


Suez Crisis of 1956: Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal; Britain backs down.


1997: Hong Kong detaches from Great Britain, returns to Chinese oversight





Many nations created by postcolonial movement are conflicted, artificial constructions

--boundaries drawn by colonial administrators

--mixing ethnic groups that are traditional enemies



Congo (where Heart of Darkness takes place)

Nigeria (where Things Fall Apart takes place)

Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon


Much error and strife, but part of world history > knowledge of planet, resources, interactions and dialogues between peoples

That's content!




>>>>>Objective 2 . . . .

theory of novel

2. To theorize the novel as the defining genre of modernity, both for early-modern imperial culture and for late-modern postcolonial culture.

2a. By definition, the genre of the novel combines fundamental representational modes of narrative and dialogue. These modes respectively control and decenter storytelling.

·        Alternately, narrative and dialogue respectively foreground literate and spoken voices. Especially in postcolonial literature the narrator may be a “literate” voice, while characters’ voices represent unwritten, spoken, or oral traditions—another intertextuality.

·        How may literary fiction instruct or deepen students’ knowledge of world history and international relations compared to history, political science, anthropology, etc.?


Why bringing this up? Why emphasis on formal genre?

Danger of Literature courses becoming overly politicized or historical, need to continually refocus on formal issues


1. reading great or important, maybe-great novels

Everybody's got a political opinion, and everyone's willing to express grievance and outrage, so that kind of talk is pretty cheap.

Literature instead studies those moments or movements where language lifts itself and us to something higher, some new progress or evolution of thought and speech.

In colonial and postcolonial literature, the chief genre or vehicle for exchanging and developing knowledge has been the novel.

The origin of the novel is primarily  European or Western, but it has universal or international potential, as other cultures appear to make it their own.


That's style or literary form!




content, seminar style

seating arrangement: try to see screen and each other

prevailing tension of class technique:

do we stare passively at screen and stand-up lecturer or presenter,

or do we sit and talk with each other?


history of class, taught 7 or 8 times

unfamiliar to most students but good books and enabling structures