online syllabus:

electronic reserves:


(password 241)

class handouts:


~ schedule ~


Literature 241:

Global Images, Narrative Worlds

Fall 2009

Dr. Abby Coykendall

acoykenda at

Office: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G
Office Phone: 734-487-0147 (messages only)
Office Hours: TBA

~ or  email for an appointment ~


Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-12:15 AM

Pray-Harrold Hall 308

Literature 241: Global Perspectives in Postcolonial Narrative

Catalogue Description: A survey of fiction and film from around the world that 1) elucidates the narrative structures in international fiction and film; 2) illustrates how these structures influence the perception of other people and places; and 3) demonstrates the ways in which narrative imagination promotes global awareness and cross-cultural understanding.

Course Description: How can the physical dimensions of books and movies--the bindings, pages, reels, and projection screens--be in such vast disproportion to the grand, far-flung, nearly boundless worlds that they conjure up in our minds?  Whether literary or cinematic, published in print or projected on screen, the stories that we cull from fiction and film at once excite, empower, and enlighten us.  These stories can take us on adventurous journeys across the world’s oceans (Moby Dick), or seduce us precipitously two thousand leagues under sea (Jules Verne); they can give us the vast satisfaction of voyaging to the moon, over the earth, and across the ocean, or make us content simply to find shelter within the pocket for a while (as with Tom Thumb or the Incredible Shrinking Man).  Ultimately, through narrative, we have the capacity to explore almost any territory that we can imagine or be made to imagine: enigmatic, impassable, unknown, surreal, or otherwise.  Indeed, not only can we summon extinct epochs from yesteryear or tour through distant nations; we can do each of these things simultaneously, penetrating the outermost depths of the universe and the inmost recesses of the human heart with a single imaginative leap into another person’s heart and mind.  In thus dallying from realm to realm, hearth to hearth, and mind to mind, we are able to defy space (science fiction), time (historical romance), and individual perception alike--travelling, at least by proxy, across the seas, around the world, and considerably far beyond.  In this class, we will survey a wide selection of film and fiction from countries across the globe, learning about and coming to identify with cultures quite dissimilar from our own.  Along the way, we will ask ourselves how individual, national, or global perspectives influence the production and consumption of these narratives, whether in terms of their thematic content, formal structure, or international reception.

Rationale for General Education: This course meets the Global Awareness requirement of the General Education program by exposing students to a wide variety of film and fiction from across the globe—not only offering a way to explore and appreciate the stories that we tell of ourselves and others, but also demonstrating how to imagine worlds and empathize with people who might otherwise be unfathomable to us.  The course approaches the narrative structure of film and fiction from a critical, cross-cultural perspective, considering, for example, how the perspective with which a story is told or the order in which it is told influences the social, political, or artistic position of those about whom it is told. Over the course of the term, we will come to see how film and fiction offer a unique and powerful mode of imaginative transport--of inquisitive, yet sympathetic, investigation, much as would be a series of study abroad experiences, albeit done in miniature and vicariously from afar.  By the end of the term, we will understand how, at their best, film and fiction invite and promote global awareness: cross-cultural points of view free of intolerance, open to diversity, and mindful of the multiplicity of people and communities located throughout the world.

Course Objectives:

By the end of the semester, you will be better able to

1)        Critically examine, comprehend, and appreciate the narrative techniques found in fiction and film from around the world;

2)        Recognize the ways in which these techniques influence and are influenced by the culture of origin, along with the ways in which they influence or are influenced by our own culture in turn;

3)        Understand the ways in which the historical, political, and social contexts shape the production of fiction and film, and the way in which fiction and film reflect and intervene in these contexts;

4)         Reinforce and enrich the lifelong study of cross-cultural narratives by establishing an empathetic and academically informed understanding of the fiction and film produced by people from racially, ethnically, sexually, and economically diverse communities around the globe.

Texts and Materials:

The following books will be available at Ned’s bookstore (; 483-6400; 707 W. Cross St.).  If you order them online, make sure to get the same editions by double checking the ISBN number, a fingerprint of sorts for each book:





* Worlds of Fiction, Ed. Charles Larson, 2nd Edition (Prentice Hall, 2001; ISBN #0130416398)

* Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996; ISBN # 0374527075)

* David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly (Plume, 1993; ISBN # 0452272599)

* Elements of Writing about Literature and Film (Macmillian, 1988; ISBN #0023279540

The remaining texts can be accessed online and then printed for free in any of the campus computer labs.  See the Electronic Reserves (ER):, password 241.  ** Make sure to bring a copy of the texts that we are covering to class, whether found in the ER or in a book.  You will need everything on hand for group work and class discussions.

Assignments and Assessment

Informal responses will be assigned throughout the semester (both in and outside of class) to ensure continuous preparation and participation.  The examinations, which will be given after each section of the course, will have three sections: true-false and multiple-choice questions on the basic literary/cinematic background and terminology, short-answer questions applying the concepts of the cultural critics to vignettes in the literary or film narratives; and finally an essay comparing/contrasting the cross-cultural issues raised in two other narratives covered during the section. 


Homework, Responses, and Class Participation


Examination One: Narratives of South America and the Caribbean


Examination Two: Narratives of Africa and the African Diaspora


Examination Three: Narratives of Asia and the Middle East


Research Project (Presentation, Discussion Question, Essay)


There will also be a four-page research essay due at the end of the term based on the semester-long collaborative groupwork project.  All in all, this project entails a) undertaking collaborative research with your peers on one of the global regions that we cover; b) composing discussion questions about a story or film from that region for the rest of the class to consider; and c) authoring a term paper based on your findings and the class discussion that results from the presentation.  In that paper, you will analyze a particular film or short story, discussing the degree to which it facilitates or obstructs cross-cultural understanding and explaining why you would or would not recommend it to other students as a part of a national, multiethnic, collegiate, or General Education curriculum. 

Grading Scale






























Tentative Course Schedule:

Section One: Narratives of South America and the Caribbean

Week 1: Introduction of course, students, and topic; Conjectural response to identify group partners and focus of the research paper; Background on the legacy of imperialism for this section and those that follow; Discuss in depth the entry on “Globalization” from The Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies together with Mary Louise Pratt’s essay “Arts of the Contact Zone”; Watch Stephanie Black’s documentary Life and Debt. ** Note: The full-length films will be publically screened outside of class and available for independent viewing in the Halle library.

Week 2: Discuss Life and Debt in conjunction with Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, the novella that inspired the film.  Topics for discussion include the tension between globalization--in both the economic and cultural senses of the word--and local tradition, especially within the uniquely pluralistic (yet diasporic) context of the Caribbean.  Also discussed will be the role that narrative structure plays in the imagination of unfamiliar places, from sensationalistic tourism to informed global citizenship.

Week 3: Watch and discuss the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not (1944), directed by Howard Hawks, and compare selections from the novel; Read “Tropes of Empire” by Ella Shohat (Unthinking Eurocentrism), and test out the concepts with clips from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film; Write a response identifying and discussing the significance of at least two narrative tropes in To Have and Have Not and one other narrative (e.g. naturalization, animalization, infantilization, eroticization, etc.).

Week 4: Finish discussing the representations of South America popularized in Hollywood films and canonical U. S. literature, including the narrative commodification of exotic places and peoples (most famously, with the career of Carman Miranda); Watch Motorcycle Diaries and discuss how travel allegorizes individual and societal transformation; Begin The Elements of Writing, which concisely surveys techniques for analyzing and interpreting both fiction and film. 

Week 5: Conclude the section by rereading Mary Louis Pratt’s “Arts of the Contact Zone” together with three South American stories (Isabel Allende’s “And of Clay We Are Created,” Jorge Borges’ “The South,” and Carlos Fuentes’ “The Doll Queen”); Write a response identifying three different kinds of “contact zones” in these stories or in other narratives covered during the section; Group presentations on the stories and class discussion.

Week 6: Brainstorm approaches to the essay portion of Exam One, a comparison-contrast analysis of A Small Place with one of the films; Review terminology and concepts for exam, testing them out with other narratives covered during the section; Take Exam One; Watch The Battle of Algiers.

Section Two: Narratives of Africa and the African Diaspora

Week 7: Introduction of section, including commentary on Battle of Algiers by Edward Said; Read Frantz Fanon’s “The Fact of Blackness” and sections on film viewing in Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye; Topics for discussion include the relationship between narrative genre (realism, fantasy, utopia, magical realism), ideological imperative (cultural imperialism, revisionist history, nationalist revolution and neocolonialism), and point of view (double consciousness, false consciousness, and imagined communities).

Week 8: Discuss Charles Larson, “Heroic Ethnocentricism”; Read Albert Camus’ “The Guest,” Ben Okri, “In the Shadow of War,” and Nadine Gordimer, “Country Lovers”; Write a response identifying three different kinds of split identification (personal or communal) in these stories or in other narratives covered during the section; Group presentations on the stories and class discussion.

Week 9: Watch Hotel Rwanda; Over the break, finish The Elements of Writing; Write a comparison/contrast response on Battle of Algiers and Hotel Rwanda; Topics include the relationship between voyeurism and cruelty, realism as history and realism as spectacle, narratives of and as violence.

Week 10: Conclude the section by rereading Frantz Fanon’s “The Fact of Blackness” together with two more stories (Sembene Ousmane’s “Black Girl” and Chinua Achebe’s “Girls at War”); Group presentations on the stories and class discussion; Review terminology and concepts for exam, testing them out with narratives covered during the section.

Section Three: Narratives of Asia and the Middle East

Week 11: Take Exam Two; Watch Hiroshima Mon Amour; Read selections from Edward Said’s Orientalism (“Imagined Geography”); Watch the documentary on the book (with clips from Aladdin, True Lies, and other films, as well as false news reports on the Oklahoma City bombing); Write a response connecting two concepts of Said to a narrative of your choice covered earlier in the term; Discuss Said and responses in class.

Week 12: Discuss Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s “Without a Grove” together with Kurosawa’s film adaptation Rashomon; Begin reading David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly and watch clips from Madama Butterfly.

Week 13: Read Oe Kenzaburo’s “Aghwee the Sky Monster,” Mishima Yuko’s “Swaddline Clothes,” and Feng Jicai’s “Street Sweeping Show”; Continue reading Hwang’s M. Butterfly; Group presentations on the stories and class discussion.

Week 14: Read Ghassan Kanafani’s “A Hand in the Grave,” Naguib Mahfouz’s “Half a Day,” and Nia Zaman’s “The Daily Woman”; Finish reading Hwang’s M. Butterfly; Group presentations on the stories and class discussion.

Week 15: Discuss conjectural responses; Review terminology and concepts for exam, testing them out with narratives covered during the section; Take Exam Three.



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