This course studies the encounter between different cultures in the postcolonial and globalized 20th and 21st century. Cosmopolitanism, which defines the transnational quality of modern writing, often centers on the clash between a provincial life in the locality of “home”, and a more international life experience abroad. In the novels we will read, the displaced, and often dissident protagonist leaves the homeland in search of cultural, political or racial freedom. If she remains in the country of origin, she will struggle against, or at least critique, the narrow notions of nation and of nationalism that limit her freedom (see Arundathi Roy’s novel The God of Small Things). In other texts the emigrant character’s search for freedom gets reterritorialized by the racist views of the host country, as happens in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand. In other texts (Tsitsi Dangarembga’ Nervous Conditions), the journey is circular: the movement from Zimbabwe to England, and back to Zimbabwe produces a deep contradiction in the identity and experience of the returning emigrant.
In the second part of the 20th century, post-WWII into the time of global flows and Neoliberalism, the cosmopolitan aspirations of the travelling modernist will change into the search for survival of the contemporary migrant, the political exile, and the refugee. The novels of Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, and Mohsin Hamid will lead us to discuss the condition of the second generation immigrant and of the undocumented refugee who tries to pass borders after leaving behind wars and a highly insecure life. Beside questions of cosmopolitanism and globalization, we will discuss issues of diaspora, hybridity, and displacement
Readings: E.M.Forster, A Passage to India, Nella Larsen, Quicksand, Arundathi Roy, The God of Small Things, Junot Diaz, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Zadie Smith, White Teeth, Mohsin Hamid, Exit West et al.