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Postcolonial Writing: Literature & Resistance - ENG00019H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Claire Chambers
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

Stendhal famously described the presence of politics in literature as a ‘pistol shot in the middle of a concert’. Yet since its inception, the field of postcolonial literary studies has been concerned with the ways in which writers have represented and opposed forms of political, social, and cultural oppression, making it difficult to separate a text’s aesthetic qualities from its political intent. Some critics (e.g. Harlow) have gone so far as to argue that ‘Western’ critics often misread works of ‘resistance literature’, assessing them in terms of their uses of aesthetics, metaphor, or human ‘universals’ rather than in terms of their success as documents of resistance.

In this module, we will consider the usefulness of the idea of ‘resistance literature’ for describing anticolonial and postcolonial writing that depicts, advocates, and/or carries out acts of political and cultural resistance. While our emphasis will be on texts that express resistance to colonialism and neo-colonialism, we will also look at the ways in which these texts attempt to resist state oppression and oppression based on class, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

The aim of this module is to explore the relationship between writing and resistance in colonial and postcolonial contexts. The module encourages students to analyse literary texts and their explorations of the multiple experiences and legacies of colonialism and decolonization, as well as more recent experiences of neo-colonialism, thwarted revolutions, war without end, and a resurgence of nativism. It introduces students to key critical and theoretical debates in postcolonial literary studies, through an exciting and challenging selection of texts produced in diverse geographical locations, such as the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, Palestine, Australia, Black Britain, and Egypt. A key feature of the module is to encourage students to reflect on their own position as global citizens, and upon the uneven impact of globalization on the contemporary world.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be expected to demonstrate:

  • Familiarity with theories of resistance literature, liberation theory, Third World aesthetics, and anticolonial critique
  • An ability to compare and contrast ideas, representations, and strategies of political and cultural resistance with reference to their historical and social contexts.
  • An appreciation of various literary forms and strategies, and of the significance of form to postcolonial politics.
  • Skills in communicating knowledge of texts, contexts, and theories effectively in seminar discussions and in written assignments.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar).  Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar).  Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.  


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  Or for MA modules put MA convener, module tutor or your supervisor
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Key texts for this module may include:

  • Ghassan Kanafani, Men in the Sun
  • Kamala Markandaya, Nectar in a Sieve
  • Linton Kwesi Johnson, Selected Poems
  • Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place
  • David Malouf, Remembering Babylon
  • Bapsi Sidhwa, Ice-Candy Man
  • Omar Robert Hamilton, The City Always Wins
  • Mohsin Hamid, Exit West.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.