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ENGL478 A Topic in Postcolonial Literatures

A study of selected postcolonial literary and critical texts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Focusing on fiction from Australia, Canada and New Zealand from the 1980s to the present time, this paper examines how (post)colonialism shapes experiences of, and responses to, contemporary global challenges. In particular, we explore the operations of biopower and biopolitics - the state exercise of power over bodies (Foucault) - in the everyday social worlds of their fictional communities. We focus on the politics of borders, including the definition and protection of borders, their power (and failures) in defining inclusion and exclusion, or protected zones and forms of containment, in response to a range of biopolitical 'threats' (war, disease, exiles/refugees, disaster; and ultimately, 'otherness' in general). We bring postcolonial theory focusing on settler (post)colonialism into dialogue with Foucault on biopower and biopolitics, Agamben on 'bare life' and Mbembe on necropolitics. The novels, by Indigenous or ethnic minority writers, pose their own challenges to biopower, countering the logic of borders with a logic of bridges, making their own aesthetic interventions towards more creative and sustainable social visions.

Paper title A Topic in Postcolonial Literatures
Paper code ENGL478
Subject English
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,206.91
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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72 points from ENGL 311-368, EURO 302

To be confirmed when paper is next offered.

Teaching staff

To be confirmed when paper is next offered.

Paper Structure

This is a full-year paper that meets once a week for a 2-hour seminar-style class. There are normally three classes on each text. To ensure classes are productive, please read the set texts in advance of the class.

Assessment consists of:

  • One 10-15 minute 15% seminar presentation to the class (followed by submission of a written version of 1,000-1,500 words)
  • One 15% essay proposal
  • The 30% major course essay
  • A 2-hour exam is worth the remaining 40% of the assessment and will consist of two questions

To be confirmed when paper is next offered. May include:

  • Joy Kogawa, Obasan (Penguin)
  • Patricia Grace, Chappy (Penguin)
  • Thomas King, Truth & Bright Water (Harper Perennial)
  • Kim Scott, Taboo (Picador)
  • Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (Giramondo)
  • James George, Ocean Roads (VUP)
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of themes and modes of expression in a selection of postcolonial novels from Australia, Canada and New Zealand
  • Reflect on relationships between theme and literary modes of expression, and critically evaluate their implications for cultural intervention and transformation
  • Demonstrate core research skills of:
    • Reading for understanding and identifying the main points of an argument
    • Summarising a critic's argument in your own words
    • Drawing on your own wider literary and critical reading in the course to respond to an argument
    • Correctly setting out references and quotations
  • Discuss your views, based on your reading and research findings, with others
  • Independently develop and research a topic in postcolonial literary study and present your work in a coherently formulated and clearly expressed argument of your own

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system