Course Description:

Western thought has historically regarded the non-West as its “Other,” a non-modern place of backwardness, darkness, irrationality, and occult or exotic ways.  We will begin the course by examining European literary and philosophical writing about “the Other” but will spend the majority of the class looking at the ways that authors and intellectuals from the “third world” or Global South critique, invert, and satirize Western visions of modernity and progress.  In the process, we will ask a variety of questions about what happens when non-Western stories become the point of departure:  How does one react psychologically to racism and colonialism?  What do stories about witchcraft and zombies tell us about modern forms of capitalism?  How does the possession of desired natural resources like oil alter the dynamics of a community? Why are some lives considered to be superfluous?  Our primary point of engagement will be the global novel  (primarily from Brazil, the Caribbean, and Africa), but we also read a variety of sociological, anthropological, and philosophical works that help us to understand the larger political context at hand.  Furthermore, throughout the class we will be focused on how we read the global novel, how it circulates, how it comes to have meaning and currency, and how it works to perpetuate or disturb certain discourses.  Thus, “Reading the Global Novel” is not just a course in which we read global novels; it is also course in which we think about the importance of reading and the ways in which reading shapes the ways we come to know our global world.

Course Objectives:

  • To familiarize students with the range and diversity of writing throughout the Global South
  • To understand how intellectuals and novelists from the Global South have historically responded to issues like slavery, racism, and colonialism
  • To understand connections between these historical issues and contemporary socio-economic issues like urban underdevelopment, environmental degradation, and geo-politics
  • To familiarize students with major concepts of postcolonial literary criticism
  • To develop students’ critical thinking, writing, and communication skills through presentations, academic essays, and class discussion
  • To enable students to practice writing in the Internet age through blogs posts and online book reviews
  • To cultivate independent thinkers who learn to analyze “foreign” texts on their own terms and will be unafraid to continue doing so after the course ends

Teaching Philosophy:

This is a student-driven class and is deliberately designed so that the questions and ideas students have are what forms and shapes discussions. In order to meet the above objectives, students are required to take ownership of their engagement with the materials. I tend not to provide reading questions or discussion questions because I do not want to focus attention on only the aspects of the reading that I find to be most interesting, and I do not want students to feel like the point of reading and writing is to figure out what the instructor wants them to say.  Rather, I want to see what students find to be note-worthy and then I will lend my guidance and expertise to those questions.  Above all, I want to cultivate independent thinking in the classroom with the hope and expectation that as independent thinkers, students will be best prepared to engage ideas and cultures beyond the classroom.


You should expect to put in an average of 3-5 hours of reading before each class session.  Blog posts, papers, and presentations will require additional work.  Please note that because all novels are not equal in length, you will occasionally need to allocate more time and, likewise, will occasionally catch a break and have a lighter reading week.  Please look ahead to give yourself enough time to complete the reading.

Required Books:

Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (Norton Critical Edition required)

Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North

Machado De Assis, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas

Roberto Schwarz, A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism

Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts

Helon Habila, Oil on Water

Patrick Chamoiseau, Texaco

All other readings will be available on our course website. The password to access these readings is: GlobalNovel.

            *You may use books either in print or digital form. However, if you do use a digital version make sure that it contains all the pages (many books found for free on google books do not) and make sure that your digital version has page numbers that will match up with the paper version.  It is important that everyone be able to find the same passage on the same page number.