LITR 5831 Colonial & Postcolonial Literature

Lecture Notes

Second meeting on Jasmine


web review

Brief History

colonial / national boundaries sometimes divide ethnic groups, sometimes force them together (often unequally)

issue rose again in public consciousness during Iraq War, awareness of incompatible ethnic / religious groups (Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds) whom British in 1920 had pulled together in creating "State of Iraq" from former territories of Ottoman / Turkish Empire


Winds of Change


Nkrumah of Ghana

Pan-Africanism, United States of Africa? (cf. Pan-Arabism, United Nations)

World Wars 1 & 2 as battle for overseas empires > turning point against colonialism

Two effects of war:

Colonizing powers weakened, exhausted by war

Native soldiers from colonized countries met native soldiers from other countries and learned of decolonization or independence movements




purpose: Things Fall Apart takes place in the southern, Igbo region of Nigeria

Achebe an Igbo, participated in Igbo secession movement of 1970s




Why studying E. O. Wilson?

First, he's a noted writer: nonfiction, 2 Pulitzer Prizes

literary studies traditionally limited to poems, plays, fiction but increasingly expands to nonfiction ("discourse studies")

What narratives or stories do colonialism and postcolonialism tell?

1. millennial narratives:

colonial interventions in developing world bring "new heaven and new earth"

nostalgic desire to return to pre-fall Eden

2. evolutionary narratives:

world doesn't really end, just changes

can't return to earlier phase of evolutionary history; instead, past and present recombine to create future 


postcolonial studies as interdisciplinary field

Wilson as rare moment when academic culture becomes current in popular culture

later in class: history

also social sciences--poco studies often informed by anthropology--Joyce (& Zachary) in Cross-Cultural Studies

Wilson as founder of sociobiology > evolutionary psychology as way of understanding human self-other dynamics

moral questions raised by colonial-postcolonial literature > "beyond good and evil"

how humans move from local, small-scale, closely-related ethnic societies (tribalism, "group belonging," self-identifying comfort zone) to large-scale diversity and cooperation with strangers


next week:

tribalism x "eusocial"

human condition as essentially divided

one side won't triumph, shouldn't triumph?

dialogue only way to manage




Demographic Transition 169;

x- purity > hybridity

people of color, Tiger Woods or Colin Powell or Barack Obama or trans-ethnic celebrities, models; what are you?--an American.

Jeanette reviews son Ryan

nation of laws, nations with treaties (Wilson, On Human Nature p. 120)

E. O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men (PBS documentary 1 October 2015)



chapter 18


122 Dr. Mary Webb, no husband and big balance, sociology or social work


123 channeling? Digging for bodies?


124 out-of-body experiences

guru, bi-monthly group

[cf. glossolalia in Abo]

I’m just approximating [Bakhtin]


124-5 only person in Iowa with nostalgia for kangaroo flesh


125 pre-Edenic


125 [anachronistic metaphor; record player]

slight Australian diction


American need to . . . possess a vision so privately


126 data bank of bodyflow

waiter: Hi, I’m Duane

reborn several times

moved by Mary Webb’s story


127 record-player metaphor

which of us . .  . ?

Lillian Gordon, kind Quaker lady


128 trucks, laborers, cf. India

so much trash in America

vaguely Asian features


129 yet to see an American face


130 I won’t ask yours . . .

India? Punjab? Sikh? > Hindu

Lillian Gordon too me home with her, older daughter’s bedroom


131 Kanjobal, Guatemala?

Low tolerance for reminiscence, bitterness or nostalgia

Let the past make you wary . . . not deform you

x-a missionary, new visions x-old

a facilitator > ordinariness


132 lucky India a British colony

shoes biggest giveaway

put those things away

Third World Heels

Walk American


133 “Jazzy”

Dairy Queen . . . healing food


134 Kanjobal women, locked and companionable


135 think you’re born here. Most Americans can’t imagine anything else.

Special case.



Chapter 19


136 courts bust Lillian

$20 + hand-knitted slippers

learned a pattern, never varied

saint’s relics


137 best in American experience and character; An American Kind of Saint

demographics weren’t there

redevelop Florida > “slower, more gracious time”

Paradise Bay Complex


138 sanctuary > hotel; hell > paradise: my America

brochure: fit, blond young couples

speed of transformation, fluidity of American character and landscape


140 here living like dogs because they’ve taken everything from us

bitterness buoys, makes special x Vijh & Wife built on hope

only more greed, more people like myself

archipelago of ghettos seething with aliens


Chapter 20


141 Tahiti, out of Iowa


142 running, not running away

can wanting be fatal?

Elasticity of Indian family

Trouble in me . . . jumped a track


143 Professorji, Devinder > “Dave Vadhera”


143 Nirmala, sari store

Hindi film for VCR

English deserting me


145 American clothes disguised widowhood


145-6 “Everything here” Indian food stores, Punjabi newspapers, Hindi film magazines


146 apartment building: 32 Indian families

educated Punjabi-speaking Hindu Jats


147 stress, or big bank balance?

Mother-in-law denied authority—wives stay thin, barren


148 gained weight

Flushing a neighborhood in Jullundhar

Fortress of Punjabiness

Unnamed, unfulfilled wants


150 Professorji accedes

secretive, parsimonious with affections


151 marital accord:

silence, order, authority

submission, beauty, innocence


151 him

importer, sorter of human hair

Khyber BarBQ


152 still a scientist, self-respect

Nothing rooted anymore. Everything in motion


153 American woman’s hair lacks virginity and innocence

His real life was in an unlivable land across oceans

Week later, calling Kate



Chapter 21


154 Du reshuffling circuitry, combining new functions

+ disconnect

cf. Prakash, surgeon’s touch


155 the son Prakash and I might have had

scavenging, adaptation, appropriate technology

“Transitional Agriculture . . . .”

something out of hand in heartland



156 Scott’s good for watching TV with

recombinant electronics

altered gene pool of common American appliance

x learn > what I do


157 killed a man . . . . so have I. More than one.

Bud most reliable, considerate man I know.

Du + tuner: “Maybe I’ll make a bomb.”



158 Jews Take Over . . . [traditional]

Things weren’t always this ugly



Chapter 22


159 Kate: corner loft huge, 5 Flushing apartments


160 possibility: live like this and not be struck down


161 cf. mother’s taste: simple, ample, plain, functional, frugal, even spiritual

note to Professorji properly self-condemning


162 Professorji’s lesson life-affirming, invaluable, inexpressibly touching

kept a certain kind of Punjab alive

Sam—marine iguana


163 Truly I had been reborn


164 no going back



Chapter 23


165 became an American

Columbia U


166 dressed like students

crooked teeth

small child + adults


167 part of family

fell in love . . . prof . . . broad democracy . . . entirely American

wanted . . . extravagant


169 subnuclear particle physics; book editor


170 the assumption behind it

[casually loaded signs]

could not imagine a non-genetic child; cf. widow remarriage


171 no concept of shame in this society

fell in love with world, ease, careless confidence, graceful self-absorption


172 a child sleeping alone


173 a room of my own


174 apartment cf museum


175 caregiver, a professional (+ family) x maidservant


176 Taylor fun: “Jase”

Jyoti would have saved



177 day mummy

talk makes trouble, it doesn’t solve it


178 weak gravity

Letitia from Trinidad, Jamaica from Barbados, a snob


179 unionize

cleaning up white folks’ dirt

getting rooted

money piling up


180 move out, American thing to do


181 In America, nothing lasts

Wylie fell out . . . my chance at real happiness . . . go for it

The real thing, this time

America had thrown me again


183 Claremont codes

184 a brave new world for me

185 Taylor academic family

x-nostalgia = coward


186 merchandise on TV

Return to Sender


188 dark-skinned hot-dog vendor



chapter 24


190 Xmas—Bud a traditionalist

Xmas goose


191 NY another small town

Bud’s shooting the first


192 signs of violence—flat authority of voice, flat affect

adjustment to the  80s


193 Du would have known what to do


195 international banking conspiracy

frozen foods section of the Hy-Vee


196 Karin too planning changes

counseling sessions in church basements

cf. assassinating the Mahatma


197 Lillian Gordon, Mother Ripplemeyer . . . belong to that tribe

skidded to a different groove

Iowa a state where miracles still happened

A husband for each woman




Half-Face – Kali


198 out of ordinary = planning

codes of Hollywood honor


199 starving Indian = veiled dark woman, wars, floods, famines on TV

glamour, something unattainable + mother


200 darkness, mystery, inscrutability + vitality, wisdom

Bud leaving Karin: catalyst, not cause

Brought back from dead x nos aving


201 horsepower, whorepower

rifle-toting youth

American before perverted [empire?]

Gold Digger & Lazarus

Mennonite relief fund for starving Ethiopians


202 helped somebody like me

a simpler America, generic past x too exotic, alien


103 astrologer: among aliens


Neutralizing harm, not absolute  & permanent conquest


204 guilt not exotic but different < Lutheran (Hmong) Church

Hmong women, animists & Lutheran

Maybe go off to L.A.

Talking to herself

Disintegration of virtues: dutifulness, decency, compassion


205 perfect TV families of the 50s

x-end of world—high divorce rate, she was the norm

205 suicide hot line

doesn’t have to be war


206 I’m not the enemy


207 Thad, mailman, month in Kathmandu—world of communications

Hasnapur x-letters

Felt safe, never alone


208 Taylor will find me


209 man without secrets


210 Mr. T & A-team = assholes

whose little boy am I? [allusion?]

Taylor the Rescuer


211 Duty and prudence count



chapter 25


213 pot roast and gobi aloo—sacrilegious smells


214 Du 5-6 languages, 5-6 countries, 2-3 centuries > condensed, simplified Tale of Two Cities

many selves

Bud: straight and smooth lines of history . . . until Harlan


215 Darrel: massacre and mayhem

created confusion and destruction

how many more shapes, selves, husbands?

Disparate things remind of Taylor > Jase


216 third world packaging

food = granting / withholding love

Darrel the Romantic


217 a man transformed

live poor, die rich > Tahiti

face twisted

whole failed, ambitious design of his evening, his life


218 big banks, Eastern banks—blown circuitry

frontier of madness closer

I’m the truth

Elders and maples


219 Vietnamese . . . conspiratorial . . . John


220 Hmong with contempt


221 knew him in camps

higher mission

knows his real friends


222 murder or suicide a fine line . . . a girl I once knew

my transformation genetic, Du’s hyphenated, a hybrid, cf. devices


223 How dare he leave me alone out here?

Wirings and circuits

You gave me a new life . . . he steps into his future

Kick of baby through rifle stock

Vishnu the Preserver


224 tring to think like Lillian Gordon

heartland . . . home . . . not it

corssbreeding appliances, hoarding and restoring


225 “scabrous”

Viet-American: don’t question either half too hard


226 bank in Dalton

decent in a difficult time


228 world divided: those who stay and leave

puritan country: born with guild or quickly learn it


229 expert: way of life coming to an end

Green Revolution

Last born to submission, expectation of ignorance

Final phase of social order untouched for thousands of years

Release Darrel from land

Same virus


232 white Christian survivalists

that noise? Hogs


236 Jane with Rochester

Carol Lutz sells farm


237 businesslike . . . Puritans



238 don’t panic . . . Age of Plastic


239 New York’s over . . . heaving west > CA

want to do right thing, not be a terrible person

why not? Free country

pull down an imaginary shade


240 caught between promise of America and old-world dutifulness

not leaving Bud; going somewhere

x-guilt, > relief

adventure, risk, transformation


241 greedy with want and reckless from hope