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Postcolonial Studies

Postcolonial studies represents an effort by scholars in diverse disciplines to come to terms, from a global perspective, with the legacy of European colonialism. In the wake of the voyages of exploration and “discovery” from the fifteenth century onwards, a handful of European powers (England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands), came gradually to exercise sovereignty over vast territories covering roughly eighty percent of the world. In political, social, economic and cultural terms, the colonial situation effected epochal transformations of not only the conquered societies but also imperial Europe. The colonial encounter resulted in the consolidation of the idea of a European or Western modernity at the apex of human civilization. It also resulted in incomplete, chaotic, and traumatic attempts forcibly to transform other societies in the image of Europe. By the end of the twentieth century, virtually all formerly colonized territories had become independent nations but the effects of colonial rule continue to be powerfully felt at multiple levels. The contradictory effects of colonialism have generated some of the most important and innovative cultural productions (fiction, poetry, drama, film and so on) over the last several decades.

The Postcolonial Studies model offers students the opportunity to study the history and legacy of colonialism from the disciplinary perspective of literary and cultural studies. Through a variety of courses on the literatures and cultures of Africa, Asia, Britain and the Americas, the module examines the vexed relationship between culture and imperialism. Students will study a rich variety of cultural objects (including literary texts) from a range of theoretical and critical perspectives. In addition, the module traces the history of the institutions specifically designed to organize and promote the study of culture (such institutions as English departments in the university). Many of these institutions trace their historical origins to the colonial moment and were profoundly affected by that context.

Listed below are five required courses. We ask students to choose the remaining five English courses required for the major. Further, we recommend that students take at least one course in postcolonial studies in another department, such as history, anthropology, and Romance Languages and Literatures (see below for some examples).

Note: an asterisk placed by a course title indicates that it will not always fulfill the requirements of the heading under which it has been listed since it is a variable topics course. Check with an English Department advisor to make sure that the course fulfills the requirement in question.

1.Postcolonial Theory and Literature (required at least once):

  • LIT 4183 Postcolonial Literature, Culture & Theory

2. Postcolonial Literature and Culture (three from the following):

  • LIN 4605 World Englishes
  • LIT 4188 World English Language Literatures (may be taken up to three times with different course topics)
  • LIT 4194 African Literature in English (may be taken up to three times with different course topics)
  • ENL 4273 Twentieth Century British Literature*
  • ENG 4130 Race & Ethnicity in Film*
  • ENG 4139 Television & Electronic Culture*
  • ENG 4936 Honors Seminar*
  • ENG 4953 Department Seminar*
  • LIT 4930 Variable Topics in Literature & Language*

3. Forms of Representation(one from the following):

  • AML 4685 Race & Ethnicity
  • AML 4282 American Genders & Sexualities
  • LIT 4483 Issues & Methods in Cultural Studies
  • ENL 3122 The English Novel: 19th Century
  • LIT 3383 Women in Literature
  • ENG 4135 National Cinemas

4. Postcolonial Studies in other departments

We recommend that students take at least one course in Postcolonial Studies in another discipline as an upper-division College elective. There is a large offering of courses in postcolonial studies in history, anthropology, romance languages and literatures, African and Asian Languages and literatures, African Studies, Asian Studies, and Latin American Studies, and as well as other departments. Below are listed some examples of courses that address the history and culture of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America as well as of European and U.S. imperial history:

  • AFH 3200 Africa Since 1800
  • AFH 4250 Modern Africa
  • ASH 3323 Introduction to Modern South Asian History, 1700–1947
  • ASH 3381 Women in Modern South Asian History, 1800–Present
  • EUH 3530 Colonies to Commonwealth: The History of the British Empire
  • LAH 4472 The Caribbean, Nineteenth & Twentieth Centuries
  • ANT 4340 Anthropology of the Caribbean
  • ANT 4352 Peoples of Africa
  • FRW 4770 African Literature of French Expression


Department of English faculty who regularly teach courses in this model include: