LITR 5831 Colonial & Postcolonial Literature

Lecture Notes

Begin Train to Pakistan


research posts due by Sunday, but if uncertain, at least email me by Sunday to update on status, when ready, questions

model research posts


Cristen 2011




midterm review: strong set, esp. re dialogue--b/w characters, texts, nations or peoples, lifestyles




reading discussion lead:

review narrator / narrative + dialogue genres

entertain & instruct

narration pp. 13, 30

77-80 narrative > dialogue > narrative


1. Review Obj. 2a: Can literary fiction instruct students’ knowledge of world history and international relations? Compared to nonfictional learning through history, political science, anthropology, economics, etc., how may colonial & postcolonial literature help more people learn world history, contemporary events, and the global future?

1a. How does Singh succeed (or not) in representing great historical change as moving personal fiction?




Heather's note on Rumi

I was first introduced to Rumi many years ago when studying Sufism in an undergraduate humanities course that focused on texts of non-western tradition. I learned a whole lot in that course, but I think the biggest thing I took from it was the understanding that despite the differences among humans such a culture, religion, gender or sex, or even the time periods in which we live, we all share a sameness at our cores that unites us in the human experience. Or in other words, despite our differences, we share universal human emotions such as love that make us, simply by being human, more alike than we are different. I think Rumi helped me to understand this because although he is from a different century, different side of the world, and essentially “unlike me” in every way on the surface, his work speaks to me on so many levels and I feel that he expresses in his poetry many of my own feelings and beliefs.

So, I was attracted to the assignment because I think it’s amazing that we can read a poem by a 13th century Persian poet who is “unlike us,” and have a strong connection to it based on our own human experiences, and I believe these kinds of connections (especially through literature) are what help us break down the barrier between the self and the other. 

I was also attracted to the assignment because I love poems about love, and I think Rumi, alongside Pablo Neruda, is one of the greatest love poets of all time!

I wish I could be there this evening and I hope my classmates enjoy the Rumi poems.



Big question: How to discuss morality of colonial-postcolonial issues without recursion to self-other dynamics?

self / other


self / field of exchange or difference / other 


What are advantages and risks to villain-victim model?

Todorov 42, 75, 239 (pluralism)


What other ways are there to think, at what costs?

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)


Where do ethics and morality fit in discussions of literature or aesthetics?

Do we learn? What do we learn?

entertain & instruct

tragedy; Tragedy and Africa

mimesis (literature may be criticized and valued for the accuracy or fulness of its representation of reality as we understand it at a given historical moment)


2 mainstreams of western civilization

two ways of knowing reality:

revelation or tradition

direct evidence or empiricism




Kincaid; millennialism 8, 72; Crusoe ch. 6; Train 1, 5, 40, 77


notes on India, partition

22 no one in Mano Majra even knows the British have left + divided

Gandhi, Jinnah

47 Why did the English leave? Independence

step forward > economic freedom

[military challenges]

48 We liked English officers, better than the Indian

48 Freedom? Educated people will get the jobs the English had


comrade? X-believe in God

49 All the world respects a religious man

Gandhi: Koran Sharif and Unjeel + Vedas and Shastras


44 [population] phallic worship & son cult





11 Juggut Singh (Singh is name associated with Sikh men, but not exclusively--means "lion")

33 Sikh temple, yellow flag-mast

34 a Sikh symbol

34 scripture, the Granth Sahib

34 Sat Sri Akal

35 picture of the Guru




16 no one can harm you while I live

66 They cannot escape from God. No one can escape from God



51 [comic turn] dreaming of jail > next morning arrested

51 the world will hear about it > policemen taken aback

52 civil attitude deflated Iqbal’s anger

60 [Jugga knows about Independence, Gandhi]

60 All governments put me in jail . . . 61 our fate, written

64 pants off—Muslim League


68 karma


69 the last to learn gossip are the parties concerned


69 Bribery


69 portrait of Gandhi


70 [Jugga’s resilience]






narrative & dialogue



4 very conscious of trains

31 10:30 slow passenger train from Delhi to Lahore

77 early Sept., time schedules going wrong, trains less punctual

13 a shot rang through the night

30 sound of a shot

84 smell of searing flesh > [no muezzin’s call]

84 [cf. shot technique—replays flames from bungalow]





16 no one can harm you while I live

66 They cannot escape from God. No one can escape from God



novel of manners


19 style of smoking, lower-middle-class origin

20 see everything and say nothing

22 not like a Sikh turban . . .

23 Nooran’s father = Mullah

32 peasant family, armed policemen, young man

33 urban accent

33 [manners] + foreign-educated, Communist

35 Iqbal Singh? . . . Bhai Meet Singh

x-what Iqbal he was . . . name common to all 3 communities

70 caste > other forms of class distinction




Traditional and modern culture

35 where from? > ancestors, not himself 

40 Kalyug—the dark age < robbing neighbors’ houses

they never robbed their village folk

41 code of morals < true to friends and fellow villagers

41 projection of rural society, relation and loyalty to village the supreme test

41 crime in his blood

42 criminals not born but made . . . pet theories

43 Uncle Imam Baksh, mullah






Question: history or novel?

Obj. 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.?



Default: To learn about “the world,” read History? Lectures, textbooks, primary sources on actual past, biographical figures.

What advantages to using fiction / novels instead? (plus or minus other literary genres like poetry and drama)

What complications? How about historical backgrounds necessary to process fiction? How much necessary? (or overload?)


Purpose for instructor: offer minimal necessity of information to manage text.


Novels succeed without historical comprehension as long as characters and story are compelling.



Outcomes of question:

Historical: European colonization brought the novel with it as genre for comprehending world change; native peoples educated in European-influenced schools read novels (Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart in response to Mister Johnson.)

Novel as normative, instructive device + pleasure in storytelling (literature as entertaining and enlightening)



Novel’s combination of narrative and dialogue may be compatible with or adaptable to traditional story-telling anywhere.

Transition to literacy, breakdown of single-language world

Novel as “multivocal” permits interplay of diverse languages or “worlds”

Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.

7 The novel is the only developing genre and therefore it reflects more deeply, more essentially . . . reality itself in the process of its unfolding. Only that which is itself developing can comprehend development as a process.

62 . . . in the process of literary creation, languages interanimate each other and objectify precisely that side of one’s own (and of the other’s) language that pertains to its world view, its inner form, the axiologically accentuated system inherent in it.

62 . . . that which makes language concrete and which makes its world view ultimately untranslatable, that is, precisely, the style of the language as a totality.





6. To register and evaluate the persistence of millennial or apocalyptic narratives, images, and themes as a means of comprehending or symbolizing the colonial-postcolonial encounter.

Where witnessed previously?

Apocalypse Now

Heart of Darkness

42 flight of the last hope from the earth



Yeats's "The Second Coming" presented by Danielle

The Second Coming


William Butler Yeats

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Title of Achebe's novel:

Things Fall Apart

intertextuality also with Book of Revelation,

Revelation 13

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. . . .

13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

 14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.





71 Tagore

71 Prem Chand