online syllabus:


electronic reserve:


listserv website:


listserv address:


~ schedule ~


Literature 592: Special Topics
Studies in the Novel: Globalization, the Contact Zone, and Cultures in the Plural


winter 2005


Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office Phone: (734) 487-0147

Office Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G
Office Hours: Monday 12:00-1:30; 4:15-5:15

Wednesday 12:00-1:30; 4:15-5:15

~ or by appointment ~


MONDAY 6:30-9:10 PM





Literature 592: Special Topics

Studies in the Novel: Globalization, the Contact Zone, and Cultures in the Plural

More than anything else, the novel serves as a means of transport: it can be a vehicle for identification with others, differentiation from others, or even a way to escape the demands of human interaction altogether.  Indeed, the novel can be such an effectual means of identification that, at least temporarily, the mind of the reader, the mind of the narrator, and the minds of the assorted characters can blend together, thereby encouraging us to surmount otherwise intractable barriers of sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, or economic status, no matter how deeply entrenched those barriers might be in actuality.  As such, the novel represents a prime example of what Mary Louis Pratt terms the “contact zone.”  Not only does it provide an ideal forum in which to stage encounters across cultures, it also, at its best, offers an ideal means to facilitate what are truly global perspectives, or points of view free of insularity, cognizant of diversity, and receptive to the manifold ways of being and thinking practiced throughout the world.  Admittedly this potent imaginative medium can work just as effectively the other way around: seducing us with the semblance of clairvoyance and omniscience, inciting fantasies wholly unquestioned, enormously pleasurable, and yet profoundly blind.  The novel has thus been, at least historically, one of the chief technologies used to produce a vision of humanity based on a monolithic, Eurocentric standard — exoticizing and exorcising the “savage” deviation of other cultures in the process.  Yet ironically it is precisely because of this nefarious history that the novel has now become such a vital tool for demystifying that process of mistaken identification, for provoking, exposing, and thence disconcerting the underlying political investments in what we believe to be, and do in fact experience as, private fantasy. 


In order to take into account both the empathetic and ideological aspects of the novel, we will begin with a classic colonial narrative, Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Beach of Falesá,” and thereafter focus on the contemporary postcolonial novel, a thriving literary industry to say the least.  By the end of the class, we will have traveled by narrative proxy through a variety of countries — the Caribbean, Africa, Palestine, India, Australia, and Ireland — learning of and hopefully identifying with cultures quite dissimilar from our own.  Along the way, we will ask ourselves how the cultural institutions of literary representation, especially the politics of point of view, impact the genre of the novel as a whole, whether it be in terms of its content, its formal structure, or its reception in different cultures.


Course Itinerary


Section One:

Contact Zones: The Caribbean and South Pacific

Main Assignment:

Listserv Responses & Discussion


Selections from and videos of Edward Said’s
Orientalism (Palestine), Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Beach of Falesá” (Scotland/South Seas), Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place (Antigua), the film Life and Debt based on A Small Place, and Michelle Cliff’s No Telephone to Heaven (Jamaica)

Section Two: Diasporas: Africa and the Black Atlantic

Main Assignment:

5-pg. Essay on a Postcolonial Theorist

Selections from and videos of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (Ireland); Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (Africa); Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (Britain); and Frantz Fanon’s “The Fact of Blackness” (Algeria)

Section Three: Former Colonies: India and Australia

Main Assignment:

Research Proposal & Presentation

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (India); Phillip Noyce’s film Rabbit-Proof Fence (Australia)

Section Four: Occupied Territories: Palestine and Northern Ireland

Main Assignment:

17-20 pg. Seminar Paper

 The “Post”-Colonial Novel in Conclusion: Sahar Khalifeh’s Wild Thorns (Palestine/Israel), Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark (Ireland)


Texts and Materials

The following books are available at Ned’s bookstore (; 483-6400; 707 W. Cross St.), although additional copies may be available at other EMU bookstores.  Please make sure to get the same editions pictured and listed below, for otherwise the differing page numbers will make it difficult for you to follow along with class discussions:







v  Jamaica Kincaid (Caribbean), A Small Place.  Farrar, &c. 1995 (ISBN #0374527075)

v  Michelle Cliff (Caribbean), No Telephone to Heaven.  Penguin, 1996 (ISBN #0452275695)

v  Sahar Khalifeh (Palestine), Wild Thorns.  Interlink, 2003 (ISBN #1566563364)

v  Arundhati Roy (India), God of Small Things.  HarperPerennial, 1998 (ISBN #0060977493)

v  Seamus Deane (Ireland), Reading in the Dark.  Vintage, 1998 (ISBN #0375700234)

Many required readings, if not distributed in class, will be available online at the Halle Library’s Electronic Reserve website:  These include the selections from the other novels that we will cover in class — Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Beach of Falesá” (Scotland/South Seas), Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (Africa), and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (England/Caribbean) — as well as biographies, historical background, and literary criticism.


Research materials will be available on reserve at the Halle circulation desk.  These include all five of the major novels, along with a number of novels that you may want to investigate for your seminar paper.  In addition, there are several films on reserve, some of which you may also want to discuss: Crying Game, Lawrence of Arabia, Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Piano, The Vertical Ray of the Sun, Life and Debt, and Edward Said on Orientalism.  On reserve as well are some excellent reference works and anthologies — The Post-Colonial Studies Reader; Dangerous Liaisons; Articulating the Global and the Local; Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies; Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures; Cultural Institutions of the Novel; and Cultures of Globalization — as well as an assortment of critical studies, including Tropicopolitans (Aravamudan), Unthinking Eurocentrism (Shohat), Out of Place (Baucom), The Dialogic Imagination (Bakhtin), Orientalism, (Said), Culture and Imperialism (Said), and Atlas of the European Novel (Moretti), along with many other books that will be useful for your seminar papers.


Make sure to print out the Electronic Reserve materials so that you have a copy to refer to during class discussions.  If you experience difficulty printing out these materials (e.g. they may print in a mirror image), try printing the pages one by one, so as to not overwhelm the printer with too much memory, or unchecking the options in the print menu, especially the “Fit to Page” box sometimes selected by default. 






Listserv Responses & In-Class Participation




Five-Page Critical Essay on Postcolonial Theory

Identification of the Book for the Seminar Paper

March 14



Four-Page Research Proposal

April 4



Research Presentation

April 25



Seminar Paper (17-20 Pages)



Reading Responses (17%)

Responses to the readings of roughly 400 words will be posted biweekly to the class listserv, emailed in plain text to and thence dispersed to all of the members of the class at once.  See to subscribe to the listserv, and then visit the listserv archives ( to double check that your response went through or view the responses of other class members.  You can pick the readings from either the first or second week, the third or fourth week, the fifth or sixth week, and from one week of every other week thereafter to respond to (biweekly sections which correspond to the folders in the Electronic Reserve), but you must have your responses posted by Sunday 11 PM so that your peers can benefit from your insights before class begins.  Each response must significantly engage with at least one of the primary readings and at least one of the secondary readings assigned in the corresponding two weeks of class.

Research Project (80%)

In addition to the reading responses, there will be one major research project — a seventeen- to twenty-page seminar paper — with four elements of that project due periodically throughout the semester.  I strongly recommend consulting with me in my office hours early in the semester about the possible topics that you might want to pursue in the seminar paper, as well as stopping by to see me as you reach each new stage of the project.

Critical Essay on Postcolonial Theory (25%)

The first assignment will entail an exploratory five-page paper in which you will critically examine at least one postcolonial theorist and at least one other theorist with whom that postcolonial theorist engages: e.g. Fanon and Lacan, Bhabha and Said, Spivak and Kristeva, and so on.  These theorists cannot be from the readings already assigned for class.  For ideas about which theorists to choose, consult the Post-Colonial Studies Reader, Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies, or other anthologies available on reserve in the library, as well as the handout on the exploratory essay, which is available online:  The point of this assignment is not to privilege the theory over the literature, but simply to make you feel more comfortable with and conversant in the sometimes daunting debates and terminology that inform postcolonial studies.  You can re-use and adapt this paper for your final seminar paper, in which you will apply these theorists — or other theorists, should you change directions mid-course — to a novel of your choice pertaining to the themes of this class. 

Research Proposal (15%)

The second assignment will entail a four-page research proposal identifying the novel (or novels) that you will discuss in the final seminar paper and indicating how the theorists in the exploratory essay apply to the novel(s) that you will be examining, or identifying two new theorists to employ in conjunction with them.  The proposal will include the following: an introductory paragraph, thesis, and outline for your research paper, as well as a survey of the critical materials that will inform it and a brief annotated bibliography.  Your essay may not be on any of the major novels that we will cover in class (Kincaid, Cliff, Roy, Khalifeh, or Deane), but it may be on the novels from which we will only read portions (e.g. Achebe).  A list of recommended novels, from which you will pick at least one to investigate, is available online at the following address:  In the end, the goal is to have our discussion open up to other authors or other countries that we do not have time to cover in depth during the semester.  Since many of the issues raised in this class pertain just as well — if not better — to cinema, I very much recommend researching a film together with a novel should you have any interest in film.  However, if you do so, the novel must be at the forefront of your investigation.

Research Presentation (3%)

The third assignment will simply entail an informal in-class presentation of the research that you have done for your final essay on the last day of class, the day otherwise scheduled for the final exam.  You will provide background on your novel, describe the relevant history of the country from which it derives, identify your tentative thesis, and offer a synopsis of the historical context and critical debates pertaining to each.

Seminar Paper (40%)

The fourth assignment will of course be the seminar paper itself.  It will reference a minimum of six outside sources — including at least one theoretical, historical, primary, and literary critical text — as well as, should you still find them relevant, the two theorists that you dealt with in the first exploratory essay.  You can reuse any of the previous assignments, whether responses, the essay, or the bibliography, in the final seminar paper.


Academic Dishonesty

Plagiarism is a very serious offense against the Code of Student Conduct.  According to Funk and Wagnalls’ New Standard Dictionary, plagiarism is the act of “appropriating the ideas, writings, or inventions of another without due acknowledgment; specifically, the stealing of passages either for word or in substance, from the writings of another and publishing them as one’s own.”  The general rule is that if you use three or more words of another writer in a row without enclosing those words in quotation marks and acknowledging your source, you are guilty of plagiarism.  Turning a paper in that you wrote for another class for this class, i.e. recycling the same words for double credit, also constitutes academic dishonesty at EMU.  Any academic dishonesty will result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment.  With the internet, plagiarism is quite easy and tempting to do; however, the internet also makes plagiarism that much more easy to catch and document, so do not even think about doing it in this class or elsewhere.   



Section One: Contact Zones — The Caribbean and South Pacific


January 10:     Introduction to Course; Read selection from The Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies (“Globalization”), providing an overview of postcolonial literature and theory; Handout from Mary Louis Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone”; Watch and Discuss Stephanie Black’s Life and Debt (86 min.)


January 17:     Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, No Classes   


January 24:     Robert Louis Stevenson Background in the Electronic Reserve (“ER”); Stevenson, “Beach of Falesá” (ER 188-245); Selections from The Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies (ER, “Alterity,” “Miscegenation,” “Multiculturalism”); Cynthia Enloe, “On the Beach: Sexism and Tourism,” Bananas, Beaches, Bases (ER 19-41); Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, “Tropes of Empire,” Unthinking Eurocentricism (ER 137-151) [57/42]


January 31:     Jamaica Kincaid Background (ER); Kincaid, A Small Place; Selections from The Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies (ER, “Anglophone Literatures,” “Nationalism”); Selections from Edward Said, “Imaginative Geography and Its Representations,” Orientalism (ER, 4 pgs.); Deidre Lynch and William Warner, Introduction to Cultural Institutions of the Novel (ER 1-5); Watch Edward Said on Orientalism (40 min.) / Recommended: Complete chapter from Edward Said, “Imaginative Geography and Its Representations,” Orientalism (ER 49-73); Edward Kamau Brathwaite, “Creolization in Jamaica” (ER 203-5) [81/12]


February 7:     Michelle Cliff Background (ER); Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven (1-99); Selections from Mary Louis Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone” (ER, 7 pgs.); Frantz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness” (ER 323-26); Watch Frantz Fanon (53 min.) / Recommended: Complete chapter from Mary Louis Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone” (ER 33-40) [99/10]


February 14:   Michelle Cliff, No Telephone to Heaven (100-208); Selections from M. M. Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel” (ER, 6 pgs.); Selections from Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (ER 5-7, 22-26, 33-36, 204-6); Watch Imagined Communities (39 min.) / Recommended: Complete extract from M. M. Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel” (ER 321-351) [108/15]


                         * Begin thinking about the research proposal and the expository critical essay


Section Two: Diasporas — Africa and the Black Atlantic


February 21:   Chinua Achebe Background (ER); Selections from Achebe, Things Fall Apart (ER 143-67); Selections from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (ER, 20 pgs.); Ella Shohat, “Renegade Voices” (ER 82-85); Peter Hulme, “Robinson Crusoe and Friday” (ER 101-102, 108-17); Roxann Wheeler, “‘My Savage,’ ‘My Man’: Racial Multiplicity in Robinson Crusoe” (ER 128-39); Watch clips from Robinson Crusoe filmic adaptations [78/25]


February 28:   Winter Recess


March 7:         Arundhati Roy Background (ER); Roy, God of Small Things (3-83); Akhil Gupta, “The Reincarnation of Souls and the Rebirth of Commodities: Representations of Time in East and West” (187-208); Homi Bhabha Background (ER); Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders” (ER 29-35) / Recommended: Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (ER 62-80) [80/27]


Section Three: Former Colonies — India and Australia


March 14:       Roy, God of Small Things (84-164); Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture (ER 17-34, 74-78); Watch Rabbit-Proof Fence (93 min.) [80/21]

                         * Five-Page Critical Essay Due

                         * Identification of a Book for the Seminar Paper Due


March 21:       Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things (165-236); Uma Narayan, “Cross Cultural Connections, Border-Crossings, and ‘Death by Culture,’” Dislocating Cultures (ER 83-117) [80/34]


March 28:       Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things (237-321); Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Postcolonial and the Postmodern” (ER 119-24); Background reading on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (ER xi-xxix) [84/23]


Section Four: Occupied Territories — Palestine and Northern Ireland


April 4:            Sahar Khalifeh Background (ER); Khalifeh, Wild Thorns (5-106); Frederic Jameson, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism” (65-69, 77-80, 84-86) / Recommended: Complete Jameson article (ER 65-88) [101/9]

                         * Four-Page Research Proposal Due


April 11:          Sahar Khalifeh, Wild Thorns (107-207); Aijaz Ahmad, “Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory’” (3-17) [100/14]


April 18:          Seamus Deane Background (ER); Deane, Reading in the Dark (3-59, 185-246); Ian Baucom, “Among the Ruins” (ER 164-67, 172-76, 184-89) / Recommended: Complete Baucom Chapter (ER 164-89) [117]


April 25:          Research Presentations


TBA:               * Seminar Paper Due (17-20 Pages)



[Syllabus last modified January 10, 2005]