30:391 Commonwealth Literature

Winter 2013

Instructor: Dr. Reinhold Kramer

109 Original Building/Clark Hall

727-7344 kramer@brandonu.ca

Office hours: 2:40-3:30 p.m. (Mon., Wed., Thur.)


Course Description:

A study of the wide variety of writing in English outside of Europe and North America. The course will include short stories, poetry, maybe a play, and several novels, possibly Narayan, The Vendor of Sweets (India); Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (India); Chris Abani, Graceland (Nigeria); V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur (Trinidad). Titles may change with little notice.



1. Reading tests (on entire novels)   10, 29 Jan.; 28 Feb.; 21 Mar.      10%

2. Class Participation                                                                               10%

3. In-class Essay/Test                        14 February                                  20%

4. Term Paper (10-12 pages)              due 28 March                               20%

5. Final Exam                                       18 April 9-11 a.m.                       40%

Note: There may be penalties for lateness, depending upon circumstances. Reading tests cannot be postponed and missed tests cannot be rewritten without a doctor’s note or other documentation. Cite all your sources–assignments containing plagiarism will be graded “O” and will result in disciplinary action. See BU General Calendar 4.2.2 Academic Integrity.  No cell phones in class.

For the very shy: in place of class participation you may hand in, 5 times during the course, short (1 page, double-spaced, typed) commentaries, not plot summaries, on the text under discussion that day. These commentaries must be handed in before we discuss the reading in class, and are worth 2% each.  No commentaries will be accepted after class discussions for any reason.  It’s possible that a student may find readings and/or discussions of controversial matters troubling. If so, please contact the instructor immediately for alternative assignments or an alternative course.



Outstanding    A+  90 & up                A    84-89        A-   80-83       

Good             B+ 77-79                    B   74-76         B-  70-73                    

Satisfactory    C+ 67-69                   C   64-66         C-  60-63                    

Weak             D+ 57-59                   D   54-56         D-  50-53        

Inadequate      F 0-49



Abani, Chris. Graceland.

Achebe, Chinua.  Anthills of the Savannah.

Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss.

Naipaul, V.S. The Mystic Masseur.

Norman, Colin. Writing Essays: A Short Guide. 2nd ed. Queen’s.

Ramraj, Victor ed. Concert of Voices. 2nd ed.


Tentative Schedule:

Jan. 3       Introduction: Colonialism, the Commonwealth, Post-Colonialism

8       Walcott, “Ruins of a Great House,” “A Letter from Brooklyn” (1962)

  David Dabydeen, “The New Poetry,” “Catching Crabs” (1988)


Jan. 10-22       V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur (1957)


Jan. 24             Ngugi, “Goodbye Africa” (1975)

                        Achebe, “Girls at War” (1972)          


Jan. 29 – Feb. 12    Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah (1987)


Feb. 14                    In-class Essay/Test


Feb. 26                    Anand, “Duty” (1938)

                                Mahapatra, “The Abandoned British Cemetery at Balasore” (1979)

                                Das, “An Introduction” (1965)

                                Anita Desai, “Surface Textures” (1978)


Feb. 28 – Mar. 19     Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (2006)   

Mar. 21 – Apr. 4       Abani, Graceland (2004)


Mar. 28       Term Paper on Kiran Desai due


Apr. 9          Yap, “2 Mothers in a HDB Playground” (1980)

    Lim, “To Li Po” (1994)



Apr. 18       9-11 a.m. Final Exam