English 270 - Fall, 2017

Studies in Contemporary World Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Roy, Parama
CRN: 62691
Time: M 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Later British
Focus: ID, Other National, Method


Nonhuman Empire

At present the conjugation of studies of empire with the nonhuman turn in the humanities is both generative and underdeveloped even though, as we are coming increasingly to understand, the imperial landscape was never a purely human one. An archive of the nonhuman gives us a sense of the sheer amplitude of the empire’s actors and stakeholders and of its status as a multi-species arena. Postcolonial theory has undertaken a sustained engagement with the category of the human–a category fundamental to colonialism’s mapping of the world and its articulation of its own raison d’etre–though without sufficient consideration of other orders of life or being in the colony. Too often work that straddles animal studies and postcolonial studies highlights an imperial mode of species thinking that involved the bestialisation of subordinated groups, taking its cue from Fanon’s comment that “when the colonist speaks of the colonized, he uses zoological terms. Allusion is made to the slithery movements of the yellow race, the odors from the ‘native’ quarters, to the hordes, the stink, the swarming, the seething, and the gesticulations” (The Wretched of the Earth). Important as this focus on bestial anthropology and racist and triumphalist humanism undoubtedly is, it is as important to ensure that the nonhuman is not reducible to the contours of human animality alone. The nonhuman, in other words, is not an invariable proxy for the human, nor is the management of men the sole objective of empire. This seminar will seek to understand the degree to which the nonhuman–whether animal, vegetal, telluric/elemental/mineral/topographical, extra-terrestrial, monstrous, or spectral--is key to a comprehensive grasp of the imperial world, whether in terms of its imaginative circuits, its political formations, or its bodily registers.

Primary texts include Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; R. Kipling, The Jungle Books and “The Mark of the Beast”; H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds; Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes; Frank Kafka, “Report to an Academy”; George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”; J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace; Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide; and Rajiv Joseph, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Secondary readings will include works by Neel Ahuja, Mel Chen, Jacques Derrida, Wendy Doniger, Franz Fanon, Donna Haraway, Eduardo Kohn, John Miller, Anand Pandian, Harriet Ritvo, Nicole Shukin, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, and Cary Wolfe.


Response to weekly readings (20%); abstract of research paper and annotated bibliography(20%); seminar paper, 15-20 pages in length (60%).


robinson crusoe, ed. michael shinagel, daniel defoe
the jungle books, ed. kaori nagai, rudyard kipling
the war of the worlds, ed. martin a. danahay, h.g. wells
tarzan of the apes, ed. jason haslam, edgar rice burroughs
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
The Hungry Tide, Amitav Ghosh
Gruesome Playground Injuries; Animals Out of Paper; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo: Three Plays, rajiv joseph