Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I'm teaching a 300-level course next semester in Commonwealth literature, where we will be studying, in order:
Rudyard Kipling--a few poems
Joseph Conrad--Heart of Darkness
Ngugi wa Thiong'o--excerpts from Decolonising the Mind
Chinua Achebe--Things Fall Apart
Wole Soyinka--Death and the King's Horseman
Derek Walcott--See below
Aime Cesaire--A Tempest (I know, not Anglophone, but responding to Shakespeare, so I might just fudge it)
Jean Rhys--Wide Sargasso Sea
Salman Rushdie--See Below
Arundhati Roy--The God of Small Things
J.M. Coetzee--Disgrace
Zadie Smith--White Teeth
A film: Stephen Frears/ Hanif Kureishi--See below

So, here's where I need your help, feedback, advice: For Walcott: Pantomime? or Omeros?

For Rushdie: Midnight's Children? Haroun? Stories from East, West?

For the film at the end: My Beautiful Laundrette? Dirty Pretty Things?

Plus, I'm packed to the gills, so anything you think I could/ should cut? glaring omissions?

Pros? Cons? Unsubstantiated hunches?


Sisyphus said...

I _love_ Omeros! That said, it's very long, and very tough for some students. It would depend on your students' level. I had a roommate who was assigned it in her comp class in undergrad and it contributed to her bombing the class ---- it needs a lot of time to unpack and if you're not good at dealing with poetry it's really slow and confusing.

I haven't read any Rushdie, so I can't help with that. I also liked both the films, so the choice depends on whether you want to go more queer-theory or global exchange flows for the themes of the course.

Or, you could have an assignment for them to rent one or the other of the films and write a paper analyzing the film and tying it to the issues raised in class. That leaves you more space in the syllabus while still getting them to see the film. :) That could also be construed as mean and unfair to the students as well, I guess. But who ever let that stop them?

You'll probably need to cut things, but it's more fun to suggest Omissions and Hunches of the Unsubstatiated Sort, heh, so a suggestion: why not have something from Australia or New Zealand? I could send you some suggestions.

Oh yeah, one more thing: you'll probably need a lot of time/material for some background and history of the British Empire and the various cultures involved. Because, as one of my midterms states, WWI was one of the major conflicts of the nineteenth century! :)

The Constructivist said...

You need something short and easy around Rushdie time. Haroun and the Sea of Stories just might work. Otherwise I'd suggest The Moor's Last Sigh.

Cut Cesaire. Otherwise you'd have to bring in Maryse Conde's response to Rhys, Windward Heights, too.

Any Canadians?

Patricia Grace's Potki is quite teachable. Agnes Sam's Jesus Is Indian and Other Stories is, too.

Dr. Crazy said...

I was going to suggest The Moor's Last Sigh or Shame might be another option. As much as I love MC, I think it's just too long for a 300-level class, given the rest of what you'll be doing in there. It could only work if you began the class with it, I think, and that just wouldn't make sense in terms of providing a historical overview from Kipling and Conrad to the present.

Horace said...

Thanks for all the feedback. I actually had some Canadian stuff (Tomson Highway, in particular) and my nod to Australia was Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good, which is a play version of Thomas Keneally's The Playmakers.

What I ended up doing was cutting anything from "The White Commonwealth" just because my syllabus was already too packed. I am thinking, though that I could cut Cesaire, switch Omeros to Pantomime, (which might also mean I could switch out Coetzee's Disgrace and switch in Foe for the two revisions of Crusoe.

As for Rushdie, maybe just do some stories from East, West, though in some ways, I really, really want to keep Midnight's Children. I do have a colleague who teaches Haroun and it really is a delightful book, but I need to reread it to even make a decision about that.

As for Moor's Last Sigh, it would be another new text I'd have to read (there are several of those on this list already), although, ironically, I have an autographed advance reader's edition of that novel...

Anyway, suggestions of both white and aboriginal texts from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. are welcome. Bring 'em on.

Sisyphus said...

Well, Once Were Warriors and Whale Rider are both Maori novels that were made into films (and the films are _very_ different in tone) ... I think Bone is another NZ novel. The NZ film _Utu_ is also really interesting rewrite of the American Western (I liked it) and has a Macbeth-quoting rebel Maori leader, which could be taken as good or horrible, depending.

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Australia) might be an interesting film to show the mechanics of colonization and regulation, but I don't know if it was directed/written by an Aborigine, so it might not fit your "toss out white colonials" rule. I'll go back and look on the syllabus for more aussie stuff.

The Constructivist said...

Grace's Potiki (sorry for the misspelling) is aboriginal.

kfluff said...

You might think about Hulme's The Bone People; it works through hybrid white/aboriginal identity and culture clash in New Zealand (maybe this is the novel Sisyphus is talking about?).

Oso Raro said...

Atwood for the Canadian angle? Or is that too tired? That Proulx woman? Good guidance on the Rushdie question, but I prefer _Sammy and Rosie Get Laid_ to MBL. It's a harder film to digest.