Global English

English 449

Fall 2005


Professor Amardeep Singh (“Deep”)



Office hours: Wednesday afternoons, appointment preferred


Required Texts:


Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (R.B. Kershner edition)

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Derek Walcott, Omeros

Andrea Levy, Small Island


Additional text (out of print): G.V. Desani, All About H. Hatterr (1948). To be distributed via photocopy.



Tentative Reading Schedule:


August 30        Intro; talk about 'Hobson-Jobson'

September 1    Joyce, part I.

                        Criticism: Introduction to “Semi-colonial Joyce” by Marjorie Howes and Derek Attridge


9/6                   Joyce, parts II and III

                        Criticism: Marjorie Howes, “Goodbye, Ireland, I'm Going to Cort

9/8                   Joyce, part IV

                        Criticism: Selections from the Kershner edition of Portrait


9/13                 Finish Joyce

                        Criticism: David Lloyd, “Outside History: Irish New Histories and the

                        'Subalternity Effect'” [Maybe]

9/15                 Begin Desani; Anthony Burgess' preface to the 1969 edition of



9/20                 Desani

                        Criticism: Srinivas Aravumudan on Desani

9/22                 Desani

                        Criticism: from Harish Trivedi, Colonial Transactions: English Literature

                        and India


9/27                 Paper on Joyce or Desani; Begin Rushdie's Midnight's Children

9/29                 Rushdie

                        Criticism: Three short essays by Rushdie apropos of the novel

                        Thomas Babington Macaulay's “Minute on Indian Education, February 2,



10/4                 Rushdie

                        Criticism: Bhabha, “Signs Taken For Wonders”

10/6                 Finish Rushdie, if it is humanly possible

                        Criticism: TBA


10/11               No class, damnit

10/13               Start Sozaboy

                        Criticism: Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, “The Language of African Literature”;

                        Alexander Crummell, “The English Language in Liberia”; Chinweizu et

                        al., “The African Novel and its Critics”



10/18               Finish Sozaboy (it's a short novel, don't worry)

10/20               Begin Walcott

                        Criticism: Derek Walcott: “The Caribbean: Culture or Mimicry?”; Jean

                        Barnabe, “In Praise of Creoleness”; Edward Kamau Braithwaite, “Nation-


10/25               Walcott


10/27               Walcott


11/1                 Walcott

11/3                 Walcott; Paper on Rushdie or Walcott (maybe Saro-Wiwa, if you insist)


11/8                 Begin Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions

11/10               Nervous Conditions


11/15               Nervous Conditions

11/17               Begin Ondaatje's English Patient (or another?)


11/22               English Patient

11/24               English Patient


11/29               Begin Small Island

12/1                 Small Island


12/6                 Small Island

12/8                 Wrap up; discussion of your final paper topics


Final papers due: Friday 12/15



A Short Introduction:


The English language has traveled, and found a home in many parts of the world, many of which were formerly colonies of Great Britain, especially Ireland, South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. With its rise – and specifically, with its emergence as a literary language in those areas – has come ambivalence. Some writers have noted the uncomfortable fact that English seems allied with the history of colonial domination; it is the 'master's' language, and should be rejected. After having written several novels in English, in the early 1980s the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o went so far as to refuse to write in it entirely. Others (like Joyce) have expressed their discomfort with English, but have nevertheless written in English with affection. For instance, Arundhati Roy once declared her unambiguous position on the subject of English, saying, with characteristic lyricism, “I love English. It is the skin on my thought.”


It need not be an either/or proposition. One of the interesting features of many prominent works in the post-colonial world is the way they take elements of local language – slang, dialect, and patois – and incorporate them into the solid (even masterful) fabric of their English language writing. These elements are present to an extent in Joyce's style, but they really come to the forefront in recent post-colonial works by authors like Ken Saro-Wiwa, Derek Walcott, and Salman Rushdie. These writers come from different parts of the world, but their interest in blending the 'local' with the 'global' elements of English suggest they might profitably be read together – as in, in a single course.


The issue of language has been much-discussed in postcolonial literary criticism and theory, and along the way we will be sampling some essays that address various historical and conceptual raised by the problem of English. Some discussions will be more focused on linguistic issues, such as whether there are technical terms to describe the fusion of Caribbean patois in Derek Walcott's Omeros. Other discussions are more political and cultural: what are the politics of speaking English in Africa, or the class-associations with speaking dialect in Jamaica? And still other arguments are purely literary: the confluence of languages and voices may be read as “heteroglossia” (we'll come back to this term), or as a way for writers to assert their originality.


This looks like it will be a relatively small grad seminar, which means the direction we take will be determined to a great extent by student interest. If any of you have a very strong interest in, for instance, the Celtic Revival in Ireland in the late 1800s, we can follow up with some critical readings that go in that direction. Similarly, if there are any books on the syllabus that you aren't particularly interested to read (I myself am a little ambiguous about The English Patient), we can shift to others.


I do hope that you feel intrigued enough by this subject to explore this topic somewhat on your own as the term progresses, and seek out angles or issues that you want to raise and explore in depth. Initially I had conceived of this syllabus as including Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, which uses a very stylized slang, as well as the novel Trainspotting, which goes Scottish. I decided to refocus a bit early in the summer, but I'm willing to consider finding a way to bring one of those books back in if there is interest. And certainly, I'm willing to meet with you individually if you find yourself getting interested in doing a final research paper on one of those writers.


A related point: I've talked a lot about postcolonial issues, and indeed, this course might serve as a kind of introduction to some of the pressing debates in postcolonial studies. But I also believe the issue of the English language could be of interest to people who will be focusing on quite various periods. It begins, of course in the medieval period, with  the fiercely contested history over the invention of the English language, involving as it does a series of invasions of England itself. I've been reading about this (the first chapter in the story of the English language) in a book by Robert McCrum, called The Story of English, and if you're interested I can photocopy it for you. More recently, there are debates about the role of 'standard' English in American literature, specifically African American literature, where there has been a tension between different registers of English from the beginning. And I think there might be other places where the kinds of approaches we'll be taking might come in handy. I hope that over the course of a Ph.D. In English literature, a course that looks critically at the status of the language and its function in the world might be of value.


You'll notice that I currently only have a few essays listed alongside the primary texts. More will be added; we'll try and discuss one or two critical essays per week. The idea is partly, as I mentioned, to leave some blank space to be able to respond to the needs and interest of you all. But in some cases – as with G.V. Desani, Andrea Levy, or Ken Saro-Wiwa – there really isn't very much criticism out there. Desani is so difficult he's stumped even some of the brightest critical minds who've attempted to read him. And though Ken Saro-Wiwa became famous some years ago for the way he was arrested and then executed by the old Nigerian government, his novel isn't very well known; I'm not sure how many people have really taken a look at this novel. And finally, Andrea Levy's novel was just released this year, so no criticism has really appeared. (Some standard book have, however, appeared; we may take a look at them.)


Other possible writers to discuss might be Joseph Conrad, a Polish immigrant who learned English only late in life, V.S. Naipaul, an Indo-Trinidadian writer who uses elements of Caribbean English in his early novels especially, and Vladimir Nabokov, one of the most fluent and brilliant English stylists ever (he was also a Russian exile who wrote, it is said, better in Russian than he did in English). I have a strong interest in each of these writers, and would be happy to discuss them with you as possible research interests.


We have a library issue – which is to say, we have no library this fall. Books have to be requested, and it may take a few days for them to be retrieved. I haven't tested this system yet, and we'll see if it turns out to be a huge nightmare. We may be able to work out an arrangement with nearby colleges and universities so your research isn't ruined.