Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Across Cultures: Film Screenings

Some hints at what to expect in November during our ACROSS CULTURES project ...

more info:

As westerners revel in designer lattes and cappuccinos, impoverished Ethiopian coffee growers suffer the bitter taste of injustice. In this eye-opening expose of the multi-billion dollar industry, Black Gold traces one man's fight for a fair price.

film: THE NAMESAKE (2006)
American-born Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants, wants to fit in among his fellow New Yorkers, despite his family's unwillingness to let go of their traditional ways.

In 1970, the just-graduated doctor Nicholas Garrigan moves to Uganda to get rid of his conservative father. While working in a mission in the country, he meets the new President Idi Amin after the coup-d'é-tat that overthrow the former government. He is invited to become his personal physician in Kampala and along the years he sees how despotic his friend is.

film: AMAZING GRACE (2006)
In 1797, William Wilberforce, the great crusader for the British abolition of slavery, is taking a vacation for his health even while he is sicker at heart for his frustrated cause. However, meeting the charming Barbara Spooner, Wilberforce finds a soulmate to share the story of his struggle. With few allies such as his mentor, John Newton, a slave ship captain turned repentant priest who penned the great hymn, "Amazing Grace," Prime William Pitt, and Olaudah Equiano, the erudite former slave turned author, Wilberforce fruitlessly fights both public indifference and moneyed opposition determined to keep their exploitation safe. Nevertheless, Wilberforce finds the inspiration in newfound love to rejuvenate the fight with new ideas that would lead to a great victory for social justice.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Assimilation / Generation Gap

Hanif Kureishi - My Son the Fanatic

official website of the author

1. Briefly retell the plot of story.
2.What is the setting?
3. From whose perspective is the story narrated?
4. Characterize Ali and his transformation as viewed by his father. What are his reasons for the change?
5. Comment on Ali’s relationship to his father. Why is Parvez worried about him?
6. Why is Parver ashamed to talk about his son’s transformation in front of his friends?
7.Comment on Parvez’ s relationship to Betina. Why is he able to confide in her?
8.Why can Parvez not see the right cause of his son’s transformation? Is it because he lost contact to his origins and assimilated into British culture?
9.Explain Ali’s statement addressed to his father: “You are too implicated in Western civilization.”
10.How did living in England change Ali and his father? What are the differences?
11.Explain the title of the story. Why is Ali perceived as a fanatic? Is he not only living according to Muslim traditions?
12.Interpret the meaning of the fight scene at the end of the story.

Universality and Difference

Wole Soyinka - The Strong Breed

a complex website about the author

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the play.
2. What is the setting (time and place)?
3. Characterize Eman and his position within the community he lives in.
4. Describe his relationship to Sunma. Why does she insist on his leaving? What atmospehere is created at the beginning of the play?
5. What function do the girl and the idiot boy Ifada have in the text? What do their actions tell us about the future events that will follow?
6.What is the purpose of the ritual that is performed on the last day of the year? Who is a ‘carrier’? Why is Ifada crucial for the ritual’s performance?
7. What is the position of Jaguna and Oroge? What are they responsible for?
8. How does Eman’s position change throughout the play? What does he offer to do? Why?
9. Describe Eman’s hallucinations. What is their purpose? Why are the things he sees important for him?
10.What is the symbolical meaning of the effigy?
11. What does the community’s reaction to Eman’s death imply? Do they seem to reconsider the meaning of their traditions? Are all the traditions / taboos kept or are there any situations when they are broken?
12.Does the Yoruba concept of purification and sacrifice have any parallel in European system of belief?

Syllabus: Post-colonial Literature

Course aims and description:

- a combination of seminars and lectures
- to read and analyze contemporary post-colonial fiction, drama and poetry
- to become familiar wih post-colonial theory and basic terms and issues

Requirements for Credit and Assessment:

20 p Class participation and attendance
35 p Presentation (creativity, interaction, visualization)
45 p Final test

100-95 = 1
94-89 = 1.5
88-83 = 2
82-77 = 2.5
76-70 = 3

Recommended Literature:

Ashcroft, B. et al., 1995. Post-colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge.
Ashcroft, B. et al., 2006. Post-Colonial Studies. The Key Concepts. London/New York: Routledge.
Ashcroft, B. et al., 2005. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature. London/New York: Routledge.
Agbaw. S.E. (ed.), 2006. Aspects of Postcolonial Literature. Nitra: UKF.
McLeod, J., 2000. Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.


Course content:

Topic 1: Colonial Practice
Reading: Jomo Kenyatta - The Gentlemen of the Jungle (short story)

Topic 2: Representation and Resistance
Reading: Rudyard Kipling - The Overland Mail (poem)
Film: Man to Man (2005), directed by Regis Wargnier

Topic 3: Universality and Difference
Reading: Wole Soyinka - The Strong Breed (drama)

Topic 4: Education
Reading: Jamaica Kincaid - Columbus in Chains (extract)

Topic 5: Place and Displacement
Reading: Louise Bennett - Colonization in Reverse (poem)
Jhumpa Lahiri - Mrs. Sen's (short story)

Topic 6: Language
Reading: Gabriel Okara - The Voice (novel)

Topic 7: Hybridity
Reading: Caryl Phillips - The Pagan Coast (extract)
Derek Walcott - A Far Cry from Africa (poem)

Topic 8: Assimilation / Generation Gap
Reading: Hanif Kureishi - My Son the Fanatic (short story)

Colonial Practice

Jomo Kenyatta - The Gentlemen of the Jungle (full text)


1. Briefly summarize the story.
2. Identify the main subject matters of the tale?
3. What is the genre? List characteristic features?
4. Whom do the animals in the tale symbolize?
5. What is the main conflict?
6. Why are there only animals in the Commission? Why does the man not object to this?
7.What is elephant's explanation of his behavior?
8. Comment on the role reversal (animals = Europeans, people = Africans) in relation to stereotypized images used in colonial literature.
9. What does the story imply about the colonial presence in Africa and what were the African' s views of it?
10. Interpret the meaning of the Swahili proverb: "Much silence has a mighty noise."

Chinua Achebe - Dead Men's Path

a complex website on Achebe

Achebe's provocative essay on Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness
- "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness"

influences - concept map

1. Briefly summarize the story.
2. Identify the main subject matters of the story.
3. Comment on the historical context of Nigeria (position of the British in the country).
4. Are there any sings of foreshadowing at the beginning of the story?

5. Characterize Nancy. What does the text suggest about her personality? What is important to her?

6. Is Nancy more influenced by modern Western culture or by traditional African culture? Are her views different from that of her husband? What character traits do the garden reveal about Nancy?
7.Characterize Michael Obi. Comment on the information provided at the beginning of the story. What impression does one have of him at the beginning and at the end of the story? 8. Analyze Obi's motivations in valuing the flowerbeds and hedges more than the villagers' beliefs.
9. Comment on the significance of the path to the villagers.

10. Describe the priest of Ani and the conversation of the two men. Could a compromise be achieved?
Which character shows more toler-ance toward the other's attitudes?
11. How are Michael Obi’s beliefs different from those of the village elders?

12. Discuss the narrator. Is he impartial or does he sympathise with one of the parties? Is he reliable?

Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel.
2. Who are the main characters? Characterize them within their traditional setting. Who is Okonkwo? What are his major personal traits?
3. What is the setting (time and place)?
4. What elements of Igbo culture are presented in the text? How are Igbo people depicted? Contrast their depiction with that of the white colonialists (stereotypes).
5. What is the major conglict of the novel? List the main subject matters.
6. Comment on the style of writing? How does the writer explain the elements of Igbo culture to his international audience? What strategies does he use?
7. Interpret the title of the novel.
8. Discuss the ending of the novel. Why did Okonkwo commit suicide? How can we interpret this act?

9. Comment on the language used in the novel.
10. Discuss the meaning of the chi - personal spirit - for the villagers.
11. What are the main subject matters and the theme of the novel.
12. Reconnect Achebe's novel with Joseph Conrad's The Heat of Darkness.

Queen Victoria Giving the Bible to an African Chief - Thomas Jones Barker

Hybridity / Otherness

the concept of hybridity - introduction

Mimicry, Ambivalence and Hybridity

Caryl Phillips -
The Pagan Coast

1. Briefly summarize the plot of this part of the novel.
2. Characterize Nash and his relationship to Edward Wlliams.
3. Define the main aim of the project of the American Colonization Society.
4. Why is Nash sent back to Liberia?
5. Comment on Nash's feelings when he came to Liberia? Does he feel at home?
6. Decribe the problems Nash encounters during his mission. How do his attitudes to Edward and his mission change?
7. What is the life in Africa like for Nash?
8. Why does Edward decide to travel to Liberia himself? Why is this journey symbolic?
9. What does Edward encounter in Liberia? What consequences does this journey have?
10. Comment on the form and its function.

Derek Walcott -A Far Cry From Africa (full text)

a complex website about the author

1. What historical events does the poem allude to? (Mau Mau Uprising, Kenya)
2. What do the first part of the [poe, refer to?
3. What does the rest of the poem depict?
4. Do you find the form of the poem symbolical?
Explain the meaning of this line: "I who am poisoned with the blood of both,/Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?"
6. What mood is created in the poem? By what images does the poet create it?
7. How are the British and Kikuyu people portrayed?
8. What does the second stanza reveal about the speaker's identity?
9. Find some rhetorical figures and poetic devices in the poem and explain them.
10. What is the main theme of the poem?

Thursday, October 09, 2008


introduction to the topic

control over language

"In fact, when you write in a foreign language, you begin to realise how much it is given life by the culture behind it. It is born, grows, changes – and dies – with the people who use it to communicate their thoughts and desires. Its words are created as symbols of those very thoughts and desires. And writing in a foreign language, you come to realise how words create not only a single image but a series of images so that if the image created in the mind of the writer is different from the image in the mind of the reader, there will not be complete understanding between them.”

"If the language lacks the words to express the images of another then one either has to find related images or explain them. To say the least, this is a curb on the creative process, and artistically destructive. An unnatural element is introduced between the writer and the free flow of creative thought. One stops being a creative writer and becomes a translator, and in the process of translation one becomes conscious of the reader at the cost of the characters one is creating. They begins to lose lofe and become puppets."

Attia Hosain (an Indian writer living in Britain)

"Language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else’s. It becomes "one’s own" only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention. Prior to this moment of appropriation, the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language (it is not, after all, out of a dictionary that the speaker gets his words!), but rather it exists in other people’s mouths, in other people’s contexts, serving other people’s intentions: it is from there that one must take the word, and make it one’s own."

Mikhail Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel" in The Dialogic Imagination

Gabriel Okara - The Voice

1. Summarize the plot of the novel.
2. Characterize Okolo and his position within his hometown?
3. What makes Okolo an outcast? Why is he different from his townsmen?
4. Why do the elders feel threatened by him?
5. What does Okolo's self-sacrifice symbolize?
6. What is the atmosphere of the novel?
7. What is the 'it' Okolo keeps looking for?
8. What might be the theme of the novel?
9. Comment on the language Okara uses. Why does he modify the standard English? What is the purpose?

Place and displacement

HOMELAND - A conversation between Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk, with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. From the 2007 New Yorker Festival (video)

definitions of the term

Louise Bennett - Colonization in Reverse (full text)

official website of the author

reading of the poem in Jamaican patois

1. Who is the speaker of the poem? Who is the listener?
2. What is the atmosphere?
3. What are the main subject matters of the poem?
4. To what events does the poem refer to?
5.What is the speaker's stance towards the emigration of Jamaicans to Britain?
6. What is the tone?
7. Comment on the language of the poem.
8. What is the form of the poem?

Jhumpa Lahiri - Mrs. Sen's (Interpreter of Maladies)

interview with the author

some essays on Lahiri's work

1. Briefly summarize the story.
2. Characterize Mrs. Sen. How old is she? Does her portrayal correspond with her age?
3. Comment on Mrs. Sen's cultural background? How is it reflected in her new home?
4. Comment on the causes and symptoms of Mrs. Sen's identity crisis.
5. What is the function of Eliot's perceptions and his comparing Mrs. Sen to his mother?
6. Comment on the relationship between Mrs. Sen and her husband. Does he struggle with similar identity crisis?
7. How does Mrs. Sen maintain the ties to her homeland? Does she try to assimilate into American culture?
8. Explain Mrs. Sen's statement: "Everything is [in India]."
9. What is the symbolical meaning of the blade ritual Mrs. Sen performs every day?
10. What is the main difference between Eliot and his mother in terms of their perception of Mrs. Sen?
11. What does the driving represent to Mrs. Sen? Why is it so difficult for her?
12. Comment on the significance of the car accident at the end of the story.


Representation: introduction to the topic

abstract: Through an analysis of Julia margaret Cameron's Sri Lankan photographs, the author argues that not only are the monolithic constructions of the colonizer and colonized disrupted, but that the colonial gaze becomes multiple and contradictory, the white authorial gaze splintering in reference to colonial Ceylon, Ceylon emerging as a space of disruption, facilitating alternative representations of Victorian womanhood in the colonies.

Rudyard Kipling - The Overland Mail (full text)

1. Who are the characters of the poem? Discuss the role of the robber and the tiger.
2. What is the setting? What part of the day is the poem set in?
3. How is Indian landscape represented in the poem? Why? Is there any danger implied in the text? Does the country seem to be populated? Is the description of the country real or can it be perceived as a metaphor?
4. From whose perspective is the poem narrated?
5. What is the role of runner? How is he different from the robber? Why is he important for the exiles? Does he have a name?
6. Compare the ways the author refers to the exiles and the runner / jungle.
7. Is the hill where the exiles reside symbolic? Explain. Is there any difference between the valley and the hillside where the exiles live?
8. What contrasts / oppositions is the poem based on?
9. Is the journey the runner has to undertake symbolical? If yes, why?
10. How is the power of the Empire over the runner exemplified in the text?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Jumping Monkey Hill
1. Briefly summarize the plot of the story.
2. Who are the main characters? Characterize them.
3. Comment on the setting of the workshop. How authentic is it?
4. What role does Edward play in the story? How is he described? Find references to Ujunwa's attitude to him.
5. Comment on Edward's vision of Africa and African literature. Try to brainstorm a list of expressions that would best sum up his opinion.
6. How does Ujunwa's relationship to Edward evolve?
7. To what extent are Edward's actions symbolic?
8. Comment on the structure of the story. How do the snippets of Ujunwa's story change the pace of the narrative? What is their function?
9. What kind of Africa is depicted in Ujunwa's story and the stories of other workshop participants? Find Edward's responses to them in the text.
10. How do the Africans communicate with one another? And with Edward?
11. What is the prevalent tone of the narrative?
12. Sum up the main subject matters of the story and formulate the theme(s).

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - Behzti (Dishonour)

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the play.
2. Who are the main characters? Describe them. What is the relationship betweem Balbir and her daughter Min like at the beginning and at the end of the play? What does the play suggest about (religious) authorities?
3. Analyse the setting of the play. What role does the gurdwara play in Sikhism?
4. What is the major conflict of the play?
5. How is the Sikh community portrayed in the play?
6. Comment on the subject matters of the play. Are there any "unspeakable" or "unpresentable" images/issues? Can these themes be apllied outside the religious context?
7. Why did the play, in your opinion, cause such a controversy? Do you agree with its closure?

: Fights of Nations (1907)

From Biograph bulletin no. 94: Our latest production, under six titles, represents various types and nationalities, with tragedy and comedy intermingled. Every scene is beautifully staged, and each nationality well represented.

Video: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on cultural stereotypes and the significance of literary representation

Video: Bert Williams performing
Link: read Caryl Phillips' novel Dancing in the Dark (2005)

Video: Edward Said on Orientalism


colonial education - introduction to the topic

"Nothing else got everybody running about as excitedly as Empire Day celebrations on 24 May every year. While nothing existed that was called 'an African' or 'a Caribbean' poem, there were English poems we had to memorise [...] Anything worthwhile, impressive or memorable, emerged shining with a White face."

"The teaching was full of arrivals of governors and visits of generals, sirs, lords, earls, dukes, ladies, colonels, majors, royal persons and the culture of British Isles. A boy would be reprimanded or caned if a teacher caught him singing a Caribbean calypso [...] In word and deed, England was taught to be the Mother Country. And there was nothing in an elementary school lesson that ordinarily introduced a story in which a Black person was hero or heroine."

"Lessons about Africa were usually about locating British Africa on the map, and studying what those places produced. Most children left school with a deep shame and hatred of Africa."
James Berry (a Jamaican writer - poet)

Jamaica Kincaid - Columbus in Chains (extract from the novel Annie John)

1. Characterize Annie. Comment on her position as the narrator. How does it affect our perception of the story?
2. Discuss her attitude towards Hilarine.
3. Comment on Annie's relationship to Ruth. How do other girls treat her? Has Ruth really something to be ashamed of?
4. Describe Ms. Edward's education.
5. Comment on the significance of Columbus. How does Annie regard him?
6. Comment on the 'Columbus problem'. How is Annie punished? Why?
7. Comment on Annie's relationship to her mother.
8. What is the mood of the story?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Skip Blumberg

This project is the result of the project KEGA 3/6468/08 Vyučovanie interkultúrneho povedomia cez literatúru a kultúrne štúdiá (Teaching intercultural awareness through literature and cultural studies).