ENG 651: Decolonization
This course will explore an array of literary texts that emerge from the matrix of one of the most consequential historical experiences of the 20th century: decolonization, or the attainment of political independence in all continents by peoples who had hitherto been ruled by European & neo-European colonial powers. This transformation of numerous polities around the world had a significant literary dimension, since writers often articulated the aspirations of millions of people who sought to chart a path for their countries in the aftermath of colonial rule.
These writers—such as Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe or Martinique’s Aimé Césaire — also probed the disappointments of the post-independence period, when progress in the new nations was often impeded by neo-colonial interference and by native autocracy, as well as by the burdensome legacies of empire. In addition to examining a representative cluster of literary writings by such authors, this course will provide you with an overall understanding of the character and significance of decolonization. Furthermore, in addition to treating decolonization as a periodizing label (one that refers to the emergence of postcolonial nations between the late 1940s and the late 1980s), we will regard it as a term that can embrace a wider range of meanings, as for example it does when the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiongo notes that formerly colonized peoples must “decolonize” their minds.