English, 2013 curriculum - Free topic 10: Narrating the Nation

Course content

In this course we will look at how a selection of literary texts (novels, poems, short stories and tales) engage with the vexed question of the nation in terms of individual attachment and belonging. What goes into the making of ’nation’, how it is imagined, bordered, and gendered and, most importantly, who is included and excluded from its realms? And how do the myths of the nation sustain or obstruct individuals / characters in their desire for recognition and agency? The texts we will study range from troubled family stories as national allegories to outsider stories that further complicate the idea of the nation as a provider of stability, safety, and secure identity. We begin in Ireland and end in England and in-between visit the so-called postcolonial world. This will enable us to investigate the many different ways in which literary texts point to the nation as (once) liberating and empowering but (now) also outmoded in a global world that cultivates mobility and cosmopolitan interaction across borders. Paradoxically, in the contemporary moment, many nations close in on themselves and vehemently patrol their borders as national communities become increasingly suspicious of the pressures that ethnic heterogeneity and cultural diversity are seen to impose on the very idea of nation as a sustainable imagined community. A selection of theoretical and critical texts will provide us with a background to the issues at stake in the literary texts.       

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

Provisional reading list: James Joyce, ’The Dead’ http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/958/; David Malouf, Remembering Babylon (1993); Chinua Achebe ’Girls at War,’ Girls at War & Other Stories (1972/2009); Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines (1988);  Derek Walcott, ’The Schooner Flight,’ The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979); Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Dust (2014); stories from David Herd and Anna Pincus, eds, Refugee Tales (2016) and Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes, Breach (2016).

Homi Bhabha, ’Introduction,’ The Nation and Narration (1990); Homi Bhabha, ’The World and the Home,’ Social Text, no. 31/32, 1992; Fredric Jameson, ‘Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,’ Social Text, no. 15, 1986; Aijaz Ahmad, ‘Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory,’ Social Text, no. 17, 1987; Imre Szeman, ‘Who’s Afraid of National Allegory? Jameson, Literary Criticism, Globalization,’ South Atlantic Quarterly, 100:3, 2001: https://www.jstor.org/stable/466222?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents; Elleke Boehmer, ‘Introduction,’ Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation (2005); extracts from Paul James, Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing theory back in (2006); Hanif Kureshi, ‘The migrant has no face, status or story,’ 2014: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/30/hanif-kureishi-migrant-immigration-1

Courseplans (including final reading lists and specific dates for deadlines) will be available at Absalon in August 2017.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 176,75
  • English
  • 204,75