HENK00005U English, 2017 curriculum - Free topic 5: Cosmopolitanism and Literature + Narrating the Nation

Volume 2017/2018

Cosmopolitanism and Literature

In this course we will explore different definitions and discussions of cosmopolitanism. This exploration will equip us with a conceptual and theoretical framework and provide us with a rich vocabulary that we will use as a critical perspective on a series of contemporary novels and short-stories (and a not-so-contemporary novella). We will be asking questions such as: Is cosmopolitanism an aesthetic or political category or, perhaps, both? Is cosmopolitanism an ethics that relies on conversation across difference? Is cosmopolitanism an idealistic rather than practical ‘project’? What does being a citizen of the world/cosmos really mean and is this possible in practice? What characterises a cosmopolitan world-view or ethos? Is cosmopolitanism elitist? What is the difference between banal and vernacular cosmopolitanism? How many ‘faces’ does cosmopolitanism have?  How do you identify and classify a cosmopolitan aesthetics? And what is the connection between cosmopolitanism and literature? Indeed, what is a cosmopolitan novel (or novella or short story)?


Narrating the Nation

In this course we will look at how a selection of literary texts (novels, poems, short stories and tales) engage with the vexed question of the nation in terms of individual attachment and belonging. What goes into the making of ’nation’, how it is imagined, bordered, and gendered and, most importantly, who is included and excluded from its realms? And how do the myths of the nation sustain or obstruct individuals / characters in their desire for recognition and agency? The texts we will study range from troubled family stories as national allegories to outsider stories that further complicate the idea of the nation as a provider of stability, safety, and secure identity. We begin in Ireland and end in England and in-between visit the so-called postcolonial world. This will enable us to investigate the many different ways in which literary texts point to the nation as (once) liberating and empowering but (now) also outmoded in a global world that cultivates mobility and cosmopolitan interaction across borders. Paradoxically, in the contemporary moment, many nations close in on themselves and vehemently patrol their borders as national communities become increasingly suspicious of the pressures that ethnic heterogeneity and cultural diversity are seen to impose on the very idea of nation as a sustainable imagined community. A selection of theoretical and critical texts will provide us with a background to the issues at stake in the literary texts.       

Cosmopolitanism and Literature

Provisional reading list:

James Joyce, ’The Dead’, from The Dubliners (1914):

http:/​/​www.online-literature.com/​james_joyce/​958/​; Michael Oondatje, The English Patient (1992);  Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (2006); Teju Cole, Open City (2011); Yvonne Owuor, ’Weight of Whispers’ (2003):  http:/​/​www.gallardo.net/​gen-t/​weight_of_whispers.pdf; Brian Chikwava, ’Seventh Street Alchemy’ (2003); stories from David Herd and Anna Pincus, eds, Refugee Tales (2016) and Olumide Popoola Annie Holmes, Breach (2016).

Ulrich Beck, ‘The Cosmopolitan Manifesto’

https:/​/​www.scribd.com/​doc/​110901757/​Ulrich-Beck-The-Cosmopolitan-Manifesto-1998; Ulf Hannerz, ‘Two Faces of Cosmopolitanism: Culture and Politics’

3534-8892-1-PB(2).pdf; Anthony Kwame Appiah, ‘Cosmopolitan Reading’;

Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Vernacular Cosmopolitanism’; Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (extracts); Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (extracts); Katherine Stanton, Cosmopolitan Fictions (extracts);

Berthold Schoene, The Cosmopolitan Novel (extracts); Bruce Robbins, Feeling Global (extracts)


Narrating the Nation

Provisional reading list: James Joyce, ’The Dead’ http:/​/​www.online-literature.com/​james_joyce/​958/​; David Malouf, Remembering Babylon (1993); Chinua Achebe ’Girls at War,’ Girls at War & Other Stories (1972/2009); Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines (1988);  Derek Walcott, ’The Schooner Flight,’ The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979); Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Dust (2014); stories from David Herd and Anna Pincus, eds, Refugee Tales (2016) and Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, Breach (2016).

Homi Bhabha, ’Introduction,’ The Nation and Narration (1990); Homi Bhabha, ’The World and the Home,’ Social Text, no. 31/32, 1992; Fredric Jameson, ‘Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,’ Social Text, no. 15, 1986; Aijaz Ahmad, ‘Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory,’ Social Text, no. 17, 1987; Imre Szeman, ‘Who’s Afraid of National Allegory? Jameson, Literary Criticism, Globalization,’ South Atlantic Quarterly, 100:3, 2001: https:/​/​www.jstor.org/​stable/​466222?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents; Elleke Boehmer, ‘Introduction,’ Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation (2005); extracts from Paul James, Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing theory back in (2006); Hanif Kureshi, ‘The migrant has no face, status or story,’ 2014: https:/​/​www.theguardian.com/​books/​2014/​may/​30/​hanif-kureishi-migrant-immigration-1

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.
Courseplans (including final reading lists and specific dates for deadlines) will be available at Absalon in August 2017.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio for both courses uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 10th 2018
Activity 1:
Written essay (app. 5 pages) presenting and discussing a theoretical/critical text from the reading list of one of the two courses (counts as ¼ of the portfolio exam).
Deadline: late September 2017

Activity 2:
Oral power-point presentation (app. 10 minutes) based on an abstract (app. half a page), and followed up by a reflection paper (app. 2 pages) based on class responses to the presentation. The presentation draws on class readings in one or both of the two courses (counts as ¼ of the portfolio exam).
Deadlines: presentation mid November 2017, abstract one week before and reflection paper one week after.

Activity 3:
Final paper (11-15 pages) on set question(s) that combine the two courses (counts as ½ of the portfolio exam).
Criteria for exam assesment