Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Colonial Encounters


The course proposes to examine ways in which literature, through its characteristic aesthetic formal elements, represents the profoundly human dimensions of the impact of colonialism on cultures, communities and people.

Literary texts from various national, cultural contexts (Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia) and multiple perspectives (colonizer/colonized) and in a variety of genres (novel, short story, poetry, autobiography, speech, etc.) will be studied within a framework of concepts and theories drawn from different cultures (Asian, African, etc.), critical traditions (postcolonial, feminist, postmodern) and disciplines (History, Anthropology, etc.). The texts span various stages from the first phase of colonialism to globalization, contemporary migrations/diasporas. 

 Course Objectives 

To expose students to the subtler, complex dimensions of historical phenomena such as colonialism through a study of literary texts and thus to be aware of ambiguities and complexities - to enable them go beyond mere “political correctness” - to develop skills in literary interpretation and evaluation within an inter-disciplinary framework of theories and concepts drawn from a plurality of cultural, intellectual and literary contexts; to develop skills in writing systematically and with sensitivity on literature; to enable students to reflect on the profound implications of the often tragic consequences of European colonialism for cultures, communities and traditions; through this to reflect on the nature and continuing value of culture in an age of globalization.

 Teaching Methodology 

Lectures (on background, theories, schools of literary interpretation, textual patterns) combined with interactive interpretive activity involving guided close reading; extensions through independent research projects and student presentations, examination of relevance to students’ lives, contemporary issues [Major emphasis: Appreciation and understanding of literary mode and the way it illuminates historical-social reality]

 Course Outline 

Module 1
a) Introduction: * definitions, descriptions, terminological issues; * Historical background
b) Stages: from early to late colonialism; * mapping encounters: colonizers & colonized
c) Mapping literary responses, representations, categories
d) Colonial discourses: ideas that propelled, legitimized; theories & critical responses

Module 2: Colonialism and Culture
a) Colonizers’ representations: assumptions, stereotypes, idealizations (“noble savage,” “white man’s burden”); representations from the perspectives of the colonized
b) The “Self” under colonialism (autobiography)
c) Colonialism and religion (“the centre cannot hold”)
d) Language (“I taught you language…”) [Indian writing in English, African dilemmas]

Module 4
Colonialism and Nature (dominion over nature, European Enlightenment and Disenchantment of the world; native American)

Module 5
Colonialism and Power (Race, class, gender)

Module 6
Colonialism and the Body

Module 7
Ambiguities: Beyond Orientalism, continuities/discontinuities in age of Globalization, diasporas