Week Two: “National” Identity

What is national identity?  Does such a thing exist?  Who defines whom?  How do these questions inform the study of literature?  These are questions that are at the forefront of my mind these days as the nation talks about building walls and testing who can and cannot enter the country.  I would like you read this executive order and have it in the back of your mind as you do this week’s work.


It shouldn’t surprise you that these questions form the foundation of po-co study.  Based on your thoughtful responses from last week, you already have thought about your position as po-co scholars and the danger of a single story.  This week’s readings take that idea into the theoretical realm.  You will be introduced to four quintessential essays dealing with the questions of defining identity and nationality, and I am guessing you will think a lot about your subject positions of teacher, student, American, etc…

For blog post three, I would like to see you write a response where you integrate your ideas about Fanon, Cesaire (I don’t know how to do an accented “e,” so I apologize!), Anderson, and Jameson along with the definitions from the Ashcroft text.  Think two-ish page response paper.  I would like to see some direct quotes from the texts that you are wrangling with.  These are four doozies, so stay strong, and feel free to email me (or do a quickie blog post) with questions.  That is the point of theory.  I find the more I read, the less I know (cue cheesy music).

Remember, your job every week is to do one extensive post as outlined above and a shorter response (at least).  I don’t know about you, but I am already feeling disorganized when it comes to keeping track of posts.  You don’t have to.  I just want you to write your best work, read everyone’s posts, and reply to one.  I don’t want anyone getting overwhelmed by posting when really I want you to focus on creating your own original scholarship.

And because I think we need a relevant laugh…


Week One: What is Postcolonialism?

This week we are investigating what postcolonialism means and doesn’t mean.  There are lots of terms this week, plus a bit of other reading.

It is really important to know where you stand when you want to discuss others, so you will spend some time explaining who you are:  for example, I am a white, cisgender, hetero, female of the upper middle class.  I need to know where I stand before I start talking about other folks.

Here is the work for this week.  I know we are all just getting our feet wet, so email me if you have any questions.


PCS (Post-Colonial Studies):  post-colonialism, po-co reading, po-co, state, po-co, body, colonialism, imperialism, neo-colo, independence, anti-colo, decolonization, place


Poco (Postcolonialisms):  Introduction, 1-12; Columbus, 18-24


Blog Post One:  Defining subject position (which you could do as a separate blog post on the “About” page of your blog if you would prefer) (http://www.massey.ac.nz/~alock/theory/subpos.htm), response to Adichie’s TED talk, response to the terms (what did you think poco meant/means; has that changed at all?)



“The Danger of the Single Story”

One of the biggest dangers of po-co study is the seductive notion of reductive thinking, i.e., essentializing the diverse experience of a people, nation, and culture into one story or one novel.  I get why there is such a desire–attempting to learn about a “different” place takes time and patience, two elements that we are lacking–myself included–these days.  But a responsible po-co scholar will fight this urge every day until the fear of essentializing gives way to an understanding that it is impossible to know all about a culture and that coming with a strong trepidation and an open mind can yield great results.  Nigerian born (and amazing) author Chimamanda Adichie speaks most eloquently about the danger of a single story.  Every time I watch this TED talk, I learn more about myself and about this course of study.  I hope you enjoy her warning as much as I do.

I look forward to hearing what you think of her video.  Please incorporate your response into your first blog post.  Respond to her video and discuss any concerns it raises for you as we begin this academic endeavor together.  In your post, discuss how you would define postcolonial(ism)/studies in light of what Adichie says and what you have read.

Blogging for ENG 551

We are going to experiment with starting and maintaining our discussions in the blogosphere instead of on D2L for several reasons.

First, I think you have more control over the way you present yourself.  You can personalize the “space” a bit more.

Second, I like the idea of you having something that will follow you once you leave the course.  Material posted on D2L becomes an archive instead of a body of work that you can access at any time.  I envision you showing off your blog at a grad school or job interview someday.

Third, I believe that all of us need to learn more about how to communicate effectively on the Internet.  Making this kind of conversation a course requirement will force all of us–me too–out of the comfort zone of Microsoft Word and D2L.

Finally, I love the idea of your friends, family, and peers being able to see the great work you are doing if you are willing to share it.  I imagine some of you will link your blogs to Facebook and other social networking sites, while others will not tell a soul other than those of us in the class when you have a new post.

I do have some concerns, mainly that you will feel like you cannot say something because it will be in the public domain.  If that is EVER the case, just tell me and we can revert to a more private form of communication for as long as necessary.


So….now it is your turn.  I am using WordPress because I have had a bit of experience with this kind of interface.  Click here for the easy steps that will lead you to your own blog space.  Let me emphasize your own…make it your own space that reflects your interests.  Let me know if you have any questions….if I cannot answer them, I will ask someone who can (mainly Drs. Morris or Mahoney!).

I have already had some questions about how we will use our personal blogs in the course.  Since we are all going to be new to this format at the same time, I want to share some of my vision.  All good teachers modify and adjust, so I imagine some of that will be happening as well.

  • Consider your blog to be your opportunity to write your response to the reading.  I would suggest you think of your posts as a response paper that is written in language that sounds “business casual” (I am pretty sure I am stealing that image from Dr. Forsyth).  There is so much sloppy writing that dives into narcissism on the Internet.  That is not what we are looking for.  We are looking for coherent essays that put forth ideas, questions, criticisms, concerns, connections, etc.  I am not interested in contributing to the pool of crappy writing on the Internet.  If you need to compose in Word, go for it.  I think there might be some wonky transition to the blog, but I am less concerned with visual appeal and more concerned with strong ideas that are interesting, engaging, AND well-written.
  • I envision your blog posts to say the things you would bring to the table during a seminar discussion.  Remember, we won’t have the chance to sit in Lytle and enjoy its peas and carrots carpeting, so you need to be heard through your blog.  Bring to your blog what you would bring to the table for a graduate course discussion.
  • We will all be responsible for following each other’s blog.  I expect you to subscribe to this blog and your classmates’ blogs (I will post a list of them once I hear from everyone) so that you can receive emails when a peer has posted.  Basically, our conversation will go on all week instead of three hours at a pop.  My plan is to put aside a few hours that are dedicated to reading and replying to your peers’ work just as you would schedule time to be in a classroom.  I suggest you block out time in your weekly schedule and not leave your reading and response to the last minute.
  • You will reply to one peer’s blog per week.  Again, think of this as the discussion we would normally have in class, but you have the time to really digest the responses and formulate a strong, thoughtful response.  Sometimes the quick pace of class discussion can leave thoughtful people behind.  I hope this format will make some of you feel  more comfortable.
  • Remember, the world can read what you are writing.  You are young scholars who are beginning to create a body of personal scholarship.  Feel free to take risks and ask questions.  At the same time, remember that one of my goals is for you to have a body of work that can follow you, that you can show PhD committees and future employers as proof of your scholarship and your knowledge of new technologies.
  • If EVER you have a concern, email me.  We can set up a good, old-fashioned meeting in my office.