English 351 World Fiction in English Professor Suzanne Keen
MWF 8-8:55 a.m. Payne 201

Afterlives of Charles Dickens

How do writers in many of the English language traditions outside Great Britain repurpose and adapt the popular and influential novels of Charles Dickens? A study of the narrative techniques and major themes of contemporary fiction writers from the Caribbean, India, Australia, New Zealand, and postimperial Britain. We begin by reading Dicken’s great Bildungsroman, David Copperfield. Thereafter, we discuss adaptation and revision in contemporary texts, asking what it means to come of age in a postcolonial nation. Novels of personal development dramatize the clash of traditional and modern identities and illustrate the resources of literacy and an English literary tradition represented here by Dickens. Postcolonial themes of colonization, interpellation, identity, migrancy, and hybridity make topics of discussion; relevant history and geography and terms for techniques of narrative fiction supplement course readings.  Expect to read 300 pages of fiction per week. English 351 (an elective course) fulfills Later British and World Writing in English distribution for the major. FDR HL.

Required Texts:

Peter Carey, Jack Maggs (Vintage. ISBN: 978-0679760375)

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (Oxford. ISBN: 978-0199536290)

Lloyd Jones, Mr Pip (Dial Press. ISBN: 978-0385341073)

V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas (Vintage. ISBN: 978-0375707162)

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (Random House. ISBN: 978-0812976533)

Zadie Smith, White Teeth (Vintage: 978-0375703867)

Caribbean Fiction (Fall 2008)

This version of World Fiction in English can be counted either for American or Later British Distribution.

Required Texts: use this information to purchase books through internet booksellers

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies. Plume: 978-0452274426
Aime Cesaire, A Tempest . Ubu Repertory Theater Publ.: 978-0913745403
Margaret Cezair-Thompson, The True History of Paradise. Plume. 978-0452280755
Edwidge Danticat, The Dewbreaker. Vintage. 978-1400034291
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Riverhead: 978-1594489587
Jamaica Kincaid, An Autobiography of my Mother. Plume: 978-0452274662
George Lamming , In the Castle of my Skin. Michigan: 978-0472064687
Andrea Levy, Small Island. Picador: 978-0312424671
Paule Marshall, Chosen Place, Timeless People. Vintage: 978-0394726335
Elizabeth Nunez, Prospero's Daughter. Ballantine: 978-03445455369
William Shakespeare, The Tempest. Washington Square Press: 978:0743482837
Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners. Longman: 978-0582642645
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form. Palgrave: 978-0333960974

Recommended Secondary Sources: on reserve at Leyburn Library

Anim-Addo, Touching the Body: History, Language and African-Craibbean Women's Writing
Booker, Keith and Dubravka Juraga. The Caribbean Novel in English: An Introduction, pages 1-5.
Brydon, Diana and Helen Tiffin. Decolonising Fictions. See chapter comparing West Indian and Australian literature and contexts.
Chancy, Myriam. Searching for Safe Spaces, Prologue, pages xi-xxiii.
DeLoughrey, Elizabeth, Renee Gosson and George Handley. Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture. Ecocritical approaches
Glissant, Edouard. Poetics of Relation
Goldberg, Jonathan. Tempest in the Caribbean
Meeks, Brian and Folke Lindahl. New Caribbean Thought: A Reader. See essays by Girvan and Hall.
Rody, Caroline. The Daughter's Return: African-American and Caribbean Women's Fictions of History
Saunders, Patricia. Alien-nation and Repatriation: Translating Identity ion Anglophone Caribbean Literature.
Suarez, Lucia M. The Tears of Hispaniolia: Haitian and Dominican Diaspora Memory. Useful for Alvarez, Danticat, Diaz.
Young, Robert J. C. Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction

Film: In the Time of the Butterflies

20%             participation in discussion
30%             8-10 page paper (2500- 3000 words) option A
30%             8-10 page paper (2500-3000 words)
or 60% 16-20 page paper (with permission) option B
20%             final examination


Empire Windrush, 1948. BBC.
Calypso music, after Windrush.
Lord Kitchener. Youtube.
Enoch Powell, "Rivers of Blood" full text. Telegraph.
Brixton Riots, 1981. BBC.
Eddie Grant, Electric Avenue.

Anthurium, Caribbean Studies journal.
Blank map of region

CIA World Factbook about Countries
Encyclopedia of Latin American and Caribbean Literature. Brief bios of some writers.
What Shakespeare knew about Bermuda: background to Strachey and Jourdain reading
Professor Barnett's essay in Anthurium, "Prospero’s Orphans in Uva de Aragón’s “Not the Truth, Not a Lie”"

Departmental Curricular Objectives:

Students in English will learn how to

1. write clear, persuasive analytical essays driven by arguments about texts;
2. read closely, recognizing subtle and complex differences in language use;
3. seek out further knowledge about literary works, authors, and contexts, and document research appropriately, adhering to the highest standards of intellectual honesty;
4. derive pleasure and edification from a broad range of texts.

Earlier Versions of the Course

It’s the End of the World as we Know it. . .and I Feel Fine.
—R. E. M.

In recent years contemporary anglophone authors have represented historical cataclysms (such as world wars and genocides), epidemic diseases, the consequences of global climate change, supernatural interventions, and technological disasters—all events that radically alter human experiences and the chances of individual and cultural survival. Perhaps the most widely read of such fictions are the Left Behind novels, but Stephen King’s Cell comes close for saturation of the market. What do we learn from such stories, and from the reading public’s appetite for end-of-the-world narratives? Core reading in the course will be a range of apocalyptic texts from English-language authors from all over the world (North America, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland and the British Isles). In anticipation of Michael Chabon’s October 4 visit to campus, we will read his marvelous children’s book, Summerland, about a group of kids’ efforts to fend off the end of the world. Attending Chabon’s reading will be a requirement of the course. What happens when a beloved fictional world comes to an end? Our course will conclude with a consideration of that topic, based on a rapid reading of the final Harry Potter book. A close study of narrative techniques will accompany the course readings. Later British distribution unless you write exclusively about North American texts (Chabon, Danticat, Atwood) in which case we can make a case for American distribution.

20% participation in discussion (includes reading quizzes and group work)
30% each, two 2300-3000 word papers (option A), or
60% one 4600-6000 word paper (option B) with permission.
20% objective final examination

Required Texts in order of use:

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form
Michael Chabon, Summerland
Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker
Kate Grenville, The Secret River
Sebastian Barry, A Long, Long Way
Thomas Mullen, The Last Town on Earth
Marina Lewycka, A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian
Janet Frame, Intensive Care
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Film: Rabbit Proof Fence.

Contemporary Writing in the World Market

This course focuses on literary prizewinners, bestsellers, and critical successes: novels and collections of stories that have reached wide readerships in the world market.We will investigate the stories of the books' publication history and different routes to success.We will consider whether the narrative techniques employed in the works assist or obstruct in reaching a wide audience.We will learn about publishing trends that have an impact on the book market (Oprah's Book Club, the gender of book-buyers, the influence of the literary establishment). We will study our own reactions as a sample group of current readers of contemporary literature.

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake (Canada)
Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak! (Haiti)
Flanagan, Richard, Gould's Book of Fish (Tasmania)
Ghosh, Amitav. The Glass Palace (US by way of India)
Gordimer, Nadine. The Pickup. (South Africa)
Head, Bessie. When Rain Clouds Gather (Botswana by way of South Africa)
Hodgson, Barbara. The Sensualist: An Illustrated Novel. (Canada)
Jin, Ha. The Crazed. (US by way of China)
Martel, Yann. Life of Pi (Canada)
Mukherjee, Bharati. Desirable Daughters. (US, by way of Canada and India)
Smith, Alexander McCall. Morality for Beautiful Girls (Scotland, by way of Botswana)

Keen, Suzanne. Narrative Form
Young, Robert J. C. Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction.

Recommended (on reserve)

Bloom, Clive. Bestsellers: Popular Fiction since 1900
Hawkins, Harriet. Classics and Trash: Traditions and Taboos in High Literature and Popular Modern Genres.
Radway, Janice. A Feeling for Books

World Fiction in English: Empathy and the Novel.

An interdisciplinary study of the problem of empathy and the novel in the writings of twentieth-century authors of fiction in English.  Since the nineteenth century, novels have been employed to draw attention to the plight of the poor and oppressed and to call upon the privileged for a response. George Eliot made the cultivation of the sympathetic imagination a central project of her fiction. Occasionally, as in the cases of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the response garnered by fiction has been translated into a shift in public opinion that has in turn shaped policies, laws, and practices in “real life.” Nonetheless, the liberal impulse to evoke empathy in the reader has been subjected to scathing critiques, whose authors suggest that empathy evoked for the plight of fictional characters only breeds apathy for the situation of real people. Recent research in cognitive science confutes that idea, but literary studies, for all its interest in interdisciplinarity, has mainly disregarded these scientific findings. An influential set of precepts about the desirability of critical distance, objectivity, and avoidance of what W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley named the “affective fallacy” has discouraged many literary critics (since the 1940s) from discussing the role of the novel in shaping readers’ hearts, minds, and behavior. Since the 1970s, however, reception theorists and reader-response critics have added to rhetorical critics’ insights about how fiction invokes responses in its readers. Recent debates within feminism and the emerging field of postcolonial cultural studies demand that the novel’s special capacity to evoke empathetic responses be re-evaluated.  Critical perspectives and theories of Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Norman Holland, W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, Wolfgang Iser, and others will be introduced.  Primary readings are novels by preeminent writers of the English-speaking world; assigned readings related to empathy are on reserve at Leyburn Library’s circulation desk.

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Nigeria)
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (Canada)
Peter Carey, Jack Maggs (Australia)
Tsitsi Dangaremba, Nervous Conditions (Zimbabwe)
Anita Desai, Fire on the Mountain (India)
Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Ireland)
Nadine Gordimer, July’s People (South Africa)
Keri Hulme, the bone people (New Zealand)
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible (USA)
Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance (India/Canada)
Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost (Sri Lanka/Canada)

Link to Secondary Source list.

Previous versions of the course:

Recent Indian Fiction. Because 1997 marks the 50th anniversary on Indian independence, and because the 1980s and 1990s have been a watershed for Indian literature in English, this year’s course will be devoted to writers of Indian descent. English fiction has become an international field, which goes by the name of “postcolonial literature.” By reading contemporary Indian fiction, or fiction written by writers descended from Indian ancestors (such as V.S. Naipaul), we study the significant contribution made by writers outside Great Britain to the English novel. Emphasis will be placed on techniques of traditional and experimental fiction, on subgenres of the novel, and international influences (such as magical realism, the French New Novel, and feminist fiction) on Indian fiction in English. During the month-long reading of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, we will explore postcolonial theories in class presentations.

Requirements: In addition to completion of all reading on time (see page numbers on syllabus) and faithful attendance, the following required components will be evaluated: participation (20%); reading quizzes and class presentation, including prepared handout (10%); an hourly examination (10%); a final exam (20%); and either two 8-10 pp. papers (20% each); or one 15-20 pp. seminar paper (40%). Failure of the final examination (with a grade of 59 or lower) will result in a grade of E (conditional failure).


Anita Desai, Fire on the Mountain
Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Rohinton Mistry, Such a Long Journey

V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

 --. Imaginary Homelands

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

Recommended (also on closed reserve at Leyburn):

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Postcolonial Studies Reader

Presentation schedule: Postcolonial Theories

presentation: Salman Rushdie, “Commonwealth Literature Does Not Exist.”
presentation: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

presentation: Homi K. Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders”

presentation: Benita Parry, “Problems in Current Theories of Colonial Discourse”

presentation: Edward Said, “Orientalism”

presentation: Ngugi wa Thiong’o “The Language of African Literature”

presentation: Sara Suleri, “The Rhetoric of English India”

presentation: Braj B. Kachru, “The Alchemy of English”

presentation: Kwame Anthony Appiah, “The Postcolonial and the Postmodern”

presentation: Kumkum Sangari, “The Politics of the Possible”

presentation: Frantz Fanon, “National Culture”

presentation: Chidi Amuta, “Fanon, Cabral, and Ngugi on National Liberation”

presentation: Partha Chatterjee, “Nationalism as a Problem”

presentation: Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History”

presentation: Thomas Macauley, “Minute on Indian Education”

presentation: Jenny Sharpe, “Figures of Colonial Resistance”

presentation: Gauri Viswanathan, “The Beginnings of English Literary Study in British India”


English 351 Commonwealth Novel and Short Story

Twentieth-century Commonwealth novel and short story in English. In this course we read recent fiction written in English by authors from Commonwealth nations, or nations that were once part of the British Empire. Canada, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, and Trinidad are represented. English fiction has become an international field; by reading contemporary novels and short stories (written after the Suez Crisis in 1956), we study the significant contribution made by writers outside Great Britain to the English novel and short story. Emphasis will be placed on techniques of traditional and experimental fiction, on subgenres of the novel, and international influences (such as magical realism, the French New Novel, and feminist fiction) on the novel and short story in English.

Requirements: completion of all reading on time; faithful attendance; participation (20%). Course work consists of two hourly examinations (10% each), a final exam (20%), and either two 8-10 pp. papers (20% each), or, with permission, one 15-20 pp. research paper (40%).


Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Margaret Atwood, short stories

J. M. Coetzee, Foe

Anita Desai, Fire on the Mountain

Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha ha ha

Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood

Nadine Gordimer, July’s People

Sunetra Gupta, short stories

Keri Hulme, The Bone People

Jamaica Kincaid, short stories

Margaret Laurence, A Bird in the House

Doris Lessing, short stories

Alice Munro, short stories

V. S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

Edna O'Brien, short stories

Ben Okri, short stories

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

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