English 250

Research Seminar: Tragic Realism--Tragedy and Revolution in Postcolonial Narrative

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2005 Premnath, Gautam
Premnath, Gautam
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 205 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

The booklist for this class has not been finalized, but will include several of the following texts: James, C.L.R.: The Black Jacobins; Scott, D.: Conscripts of Modernity; Williams, R.: Modern Tragedy; Benjamin, W.: The Origins of German Tragic Drama; Naipaul, V.S.: The Mimic Men; C�saire, A.: The Tragedy of King Christophe; Collins, M.: Angel; Cliff, M.: No Telephone to Heaven; Devi, M.: Chotti Munda and His Arrow; Ghosh, A.: The Shadow Lines; and a substantial course reader.


This course will explore tragedy as a key site for coming to terms with the consequences of revolutionary politics in modernity. We'll focus in particular on the renewed interest in tragic modes among postcolonial literary practitioners and theorists, asking what relation it bears to the straitened circumstances of postcolonial politics in our contemporary historical moment. At a time when grand projects of nation-building, development, and reconstruction appear to be in terminal crisis, tragedy's emphasis on intransigence, intractability, and unanswerability has a peculiar and troubling salience. At the heart of our reading will be the classic inquiry into the tragic dimensions of anti-colonial struggle, C.L.R. James's The Black Jacobins. Alongside it we'll read a series of literary works, primarily from the Caribbean and South Asia, that either extend or problematize James's reading of postcolonial history in tragic terms. We'll also read widely in theoretical work by the likes of David Scott, Raymond Williams, C.L.R. James (again), Walter Benjamin, Ranjana Khanna, Frantz Fanon, Lewis Gordon, Paul Gilroy, Judith Butler, and George Steiner. The course will conclude by counterposing tragedy with melancholia as alternative frames of reference for inquiring into and moving past the present impasses of postcolonial politics.

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