Faculty of Arts


Global Literatures: Contested Spaces

Please note: this is archived course information from 2012 for ENGLISH 112.


Covers central issues in international post-colonial, settler and indigenous writing by examining a small selection of texts from the late nineteenth century, and a larger selection of contemporary texts from geographically diverse regions including India, the Pacific, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada. 

How is hybridity - the mixing of cultures, which results from colonialism - dealt with in texts from these diverse regions? How do writers write back to their inheritance of colonialism and find productive ways forward? We explore the relationship between Globalization and Colonialism, and the intersection of Language, Identity, Agency and cultural Authenticity (who gets to speak for whom? In what language? To what audience? Does it matter?), and how these issues differ for indigenous, diasporic and settler writers. The course also teaches the fundamental skills of close reading in the genres of fiction, poetry and drama.

We begin with a dialogue between colonial writing about, and contemporary writing from, two of the contested spaces on this course. In weeks one and two, Robert Louis Stevenson’s colonial account of the Pacific is considered alongside 21st century rewriting of Stevenson’s work by Pacific Islanders. In the following weeks Rudyard Kipling’s version of India paves the way for our exploration of 1997 booker prize winner Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.

From week five we remain in late 20th and 21st century textual spaces, exploring contemporary negotiations of colonial inheritances in the diverse physical spaces considered on this course. We navigate the Caribbean through the poetry of Grace Nichols, and explore contemporary African literature in the form of Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. We consider Native American writing and, with this knowledge, move to look at recent Maori poetry and drama in relation to our conception of the so-called ‘postcolonial’ condition. We then investigate the colonial and postcolonial dynamics of Ireland (a white colonised people) in the poetry of Seamus Heaney and in Brian Friel’s play Translations.

The final section of the course considers the settler condition. Margaret Atwood’s novel of Canadian settler anxiety, Surfacing, is followed by Geoff Cush’s playful novel, Son of France, where New Zealand gets rewritten as a French colony in order to better reflect on the contested space of the present.

Availability 2012

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Dr Jan Cronin


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus (Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 2003)

Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (New York: Grove Press, 2005)

Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (London: Virago, 1979)

Geoff Cush, Son of France (Auckland: Random House, 2008)

Brian Friel, Translations (London: Faber, 1981)

Briar Grace-Smith, When Sun and Moon Collide (Wellington: Huia, 2006)

Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would be King and Other Stories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Niu Voices, edited by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Wellington: Huia, 2006)

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things(London: Flamingo, 1997)

Robert Louis Stevenson, South Sea Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Poetry provided.

Recommended Reading



1 x class test (15%), 1 x 1,500 word essay (30%), 1 x 2hr exam (2 essay style questions) (50%), 5% tutorial participation [Tutorial participation is measured according to the performance of a set task within each tutorial]


ENGLISH 112: 15.0 points

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