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Postcolonial Literature




Admissions requirements

Art of Reading or permission of instructor


Discourses of racial and ethnic difference, though existing since time immemorial, have perhaps never been more powerful than in their justifying of colonization since the ‘discovery’ of the Americas. Literature, including travel, autobiographic and popular scientific writing, has played a major part in creating images of the ‘other’ that produced and sustained global relations of power. If the ideology of colonialism has nowadays largely dissipated, racializing and ethnocentric thinking is still part of everyday life, reproducing structures of domination in our postcolonial age.

What role does literature play in maintaining or overcoming these ways of thinking? How does literature called ‘postcolonial’ reflect on the legacies of colonialism? We will explore modes of writing and reading that interrogate the histories and the presence of colonial mentalities and ways of life in a variety of postcolonial locations. The journey will start with Tony Morrison’s grappling with traumatic memories of slave trade and trace re-explorations of the transatlantic route in stories by Afro-Brazilian writers; from there, we will progress to South Africa and the struggles of growing up as a young ‘coloured’ woman during apartheid; our focus will then switch to Europe and the US in order to engage with intertwining historical narratives of Jewishness and blackness and their contemporary echoes; the politics of race and nationalism, seen through the eyes of protagonists straddling the ‘multicultural’ worlds of India, Nigeria and the US, will be the subject of the next part; following the route back to America, we will conclude by discussing 12 Years a Slave and the possible shifts in contemporary culture this film designates.

Since this is a reading-intensive course (a novel and a short theoretical text a week), students are encouraged to make the books listed below part of their summer readings or at least read a few of them prior to the course.

Week 1: Race and (African-)American Literature
Week 2: Race, Nation and Difference in Latin American Literature
Week 3: Race, ‘Colouredness’ and Apartheid in South African Literature
Week 4: Thinking Different Histories of Racism together
Week 5: Cultural Economies of Migration and Diaspora
Week 6: Race, Place and Practices of Transmigration
Week 7: Peer-reviewing and film discussion

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Acquire a good understanding of ‘race’/’ethnicity’ as discursive constructions interacting with other paradigms of identity such as ‘gender’ and ‘class’;

  • Familiarize themselves with historical discourses of race and ethnicity in a variety of (post)colonial contexts (North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe), including comparative perspectives;

  • Demonstrate the ways in which literature shapes our ideas about society and social identities;

  • Develop skills of analyzing literary representations;

  • Enhanced their skills of critical reading, oral presentation and analytical writing.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Classes will be a combination of short lectures and seminar discussions, with students introducing some aspects of the required texts by applying suggested theoretical approaches. A thorough engagement with the readings, a thoughtful manner of presenting and discussing one’s ideas in class, as well as respect for our differences of opinion are crucial for the optimal unfolding of the course. In addition to an oral presentation, each student will write two short responses (webposts) to the readings, of which one should be a close reading. At the end of week 3 students submit proposals for the final paper. At the end of week 5, a draft of the final paper is due, which will be peer-reviewed and discussed in small groups at the beginning of week 7. The last session will include a film discussion encouraging students to apply the theoretical insights they gained throughout the course.


  • Two webposts (300 words) and in-class discussion of them, 20%, deadline webposts weeks 2&4 or 4&6, or 2&6;

  • In-class participation and participation in plenary discussion, 10%, ongoing and week 7;

  • Oral presentation (in groups of 2-3), 10%, weeks 1-6;

  • Peer review of the draft, 10%, week 7;

  • Research proposal and a draft of the essay (1200 words), 15%, week 3 & 5;

  • Final research essay (2500-3000 words), 35%, week 8.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

  • Women Righting: Afro-Brazilian Women’s Short Fiction , ed. by Miriam Alvares and Maria Helena Lima (2004)

  • Zoë Wicomb, You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town (1987)

  • Caryl Phillips, The Nature of Blood (1997)

  • Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (2006)

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013)

  • 12 Years a Slave , film (2013)


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Ksenia Robbe,