English | Recent Writing
L381 | 29682 | Ranu Samantrai

Ranu Samantrai

29682 - 9:30a-10:45a TR (20 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “The Last Post of History”

Much of the experimentation in prose form in recent years has been
motivated by the desire to question dominant or official accounts of
the status quo, and to consider counter accounts from excluded or
marginalized perspectives.  Favorite strategies for making room for
those untold stories include re-narrating iconic moments of a
national past and writing back to a nation’s most honored literary
texts.  Both strategies require a heightened attention to
conventions of previous narratives, to the devices we use to situate
ourselves in a chain of historical cause and effect.  This ironic re-
narration has come to be known as historiographic metafiction.
Emerging in the closing decades of the twentieth century, the genre
quickly became significant in British and postcolonial letters,
where it uses the weight of an imperial past and a sedimented
literary canon as evidence of an overbearing and suspiciously
incomplete official record.

In this class we will read fiction and some drama that take Britain
and its former empire as their primary objects of analysis.  That
focus will allow us to incorporate both the postmodern break with
realist narratives and the postcolonial challenge to the
authoritative prose emanating from the heart of empire.  This
literature is peculiarly cerebral:  it incorporates non-literary
material (historical documents, philosophical writings and the like)
and blurs genre boundaries.  A querulous body of work, it is also
unusually entertaining, as humor and irony are primary weapons in
its arsenal against the pomposity of certainty.  Students should be
prepared to enjoy their reading and perhaps even to (re)discover the
pleasure of the text, even as they consider the weighty questions
that make this late twentieth- and early twenty first-century
literature a particularly compelling site of social engagement.

Authors likely will include Will Self,  J.M. Coetzee, Amitav Ghosh,
Michael Ondaatje, Kazuo Ishiguro, Pat Barker, David Mitchell,
Bernadine Evaristo, Anne Enright, and Julian Barnes.  Assignments
likely will include two analytical essays, a mid-term examination
and a final examination.  They may include informal writing and in-
class presentations.