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ENGL 316 A: Postcolonial Literature and Culture

Meeting Time: 
TTh 8:30am - 10:20am
* *
Dr. Anu in a red dress in conversation
Anu Taranath

Syllabus Description:

ENG 316: Winter 2021: Postcolonial Literatures

"Home Leavings & Home Goings in Global Fiction"


Class Zoom Link

Instructor: Dr. Anu Taranath


Class Time: synchronous class Tuesdays 8:30-10:20am & most Thursdays 8:30-10:00am.


Office Hours:

Mondays from 2:00-3:30pm

Since office hours are now virtual, please send me an email at to let me know you're coming to office hours. 



Please note: I’m pretty old school. I don’t have a phone with email on it, and need to be in front of my laptop to access email. I check email about twice a day, have a lot going on outside of this class, and sometimes take a day or so to respond to non-urgent messages. Rest assured though, I do respond to all student notes, and I’ll definitely write you back. :)


Course Description:

What is involved in leaving a home and making a home elsewhere? What does it mean to belong? How does who we are affect what home might mean to us? This course focuses on literature written by immigrants or the children of immigrants from the Caribbean, South Asia, and Africa living in the U.K., the US, and other parts of the world. We will read novels, short stories, critical essays and screen films, all of which thematize notions of home, racial identity and imperialism’s legacy. Through our discussions, we will begin to engage with some of the issues that are salient for many migrants, immigrants and people of color in different parts of the world. We will also extend our analysis to the contemporary US as well.  While there are no prerequisites for this class, an openness and curiosity about issues of power, identity, race, immigration, cultural assimilation, and culture will serve you well.


Required Texts:

Small Island—Andrea Levy

The Intended--David Dabydeen

A Distant Shore-- Caryl Phillips

assorted readings on Canvas


Course expectations: All readings & assignments completed on assigned days; attendance and participation in synchronous online classes and group meetings, good faith effort with assignments, course work to be turned in on time; engagement and respectfulness toward colleagues and course ideas. Late papers generally frowned upon unless you've communicated with me or something dramatic is happening in your life. In that case, please do reach out!


If you are absent from our synchronous class, first watch the class video, and second, check with your Podmates to find out what else you have missed in the group discussions and exchange notes. Once you do this you can contact me for additional information. I will be posting reading prompts, short questions, and other course information via Canvas announcements, so configure your email and notifications appropriately.


Assignments and Grade Distribution:

First Look Epistemology paper—2%
Connected to Class—3%
Weekly Reading Responses and TIPS Letters—35%

Participation, Engagement & Contributions (Groups & Pods, short homeworks, class engagement)—30%


I use the following grading system and scale:




The format of the class is discussion-based, whether in Zoom or in asynchronous, discussion board engagements; therefore, a relatively large portion of your final grade depends on your collaborative contributions to the course. On the most basic level of course contribution, you should come to Zoom meetings on time and stay for the duration, having read the assignment and having given it some thought in preparation for participating in discussion. Participation includes all assigned readings by the assigned dates; active participation in class and your Groups and Pods; reliable and consistent attendance; completion of short writings and homeworks; collaborative engagement with our class colleagues; timely submissions; good faith effort, and overall “how you are learning and engaging with the people and ideas of this class.”

Schedule of Readings & Assignments, subject to revision


week 1—


Tues Jan 5: synchronous class, Class Zoom Link

introduction to course themes, philosophies, pedagogies, expectations.


Thurs Jan 7: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link
   Group A: 8:30-8:55pm

   Group B: 9:00-9:25pm

   Group C: 9:30-9:55pm

Read for class: vulnerable observer.pdf (read pages 1-33).

Friday Jan 8: First Look paper due by 5pm.

Sunday Jan 10: TIPS Letter #1 due by midnight.


week 2—


Mon Jan 11: Reading Response #1 due by 7pm; respond to two posts by Friday


Tues Jan 12: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: Small Island (Prologue, Chapters 1-8)


Thurs Jan 14: synchronous class in Pods

Post discussion notes in your Pod discussion board

Read for class: Small Island (Chapters 9-19).


 Sunday Jan 17: TIPS Letter #2 due by midnight.


week 3—


Mon Jan 18 (holiday): Reading Response #2 due by 7pm; respond to two posts by Friday


Tues Jan 19: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link
Read for class: Small Island (Chapters 20-34).


Thurs Jan 21: synchronous class in Pods

Post discussion notes in your Pod discussion board

Read for class: Small Island (Chapters 35-45).


Sunday Jan 24: TIPS Letter #3 due by midnight.


week 4—


Mon Jan 25: Reading Response #3 due by 7pm; respond to two posts by Friday


Tues Jan 26: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: Small Island (Chapters 46-end); Beginning_Postcolonialism (1).pdf 


Thurs Jan 28: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

   Group A: 8:30-9:00am

   Group B: 9:00-9:30am

   Group C: 9:30-10:00am

Read for class: Beginning_Postcolonialism (1).pdf 


Sunday Jan 31: TIPS Letter #4 due by midnight.


week 5—


Mon Feb 1: Reading Response #4 due by 7pm; respond to two posts by Friday


Tues Feb 2: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: Read for class: Part I of A Distant Shore (through page 63)


Thurs Feb 4: synchronous class in Pods

Post discussion notes in your Pod discussion board

Read for class:


Sunday Feb 7: TIPS Letter #5 due by midnight.


week 6—


Tues Feb 9: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: Part II of A Distant Shore (through page 169)


Thurs Feb 11: no class or Pods, work on midterms. 

Sat Feb 13th: Midterm due by midnight


week 7—


Mon Feb 15 (holiday): Reading Response #5 due by 7pm; respond to two posts by Friday


Tues Feb 16: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: A Distant Shore (through end)


Thurs Feb 18: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

   Group A: 8:30-9:00am

   Group B: 9:00-9:30am

   Group C: 9:30-10:00am

Read for class: famliarize yourself with NPR's "Goats and Soda"


Sunday Feb 21: TIPS Letter # 6 due by midnight.


week 8—


Mon Feb 22: Reading Response #6 due by 7pm; respond to two posts by Friday


Tues Feb 23: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: African_Women_X_Feminism (1).pdf 


Thurs Feb 25: synchronous class in Pods

Post discussion notes in your Pod discussion board

Read for class: Part I of The Intended (through page 53)


Friday Feb 26: Connected to Class due by midnight.


week 9—


Tues March 2: synchronous class with Dr. Anu, Class Zoom Link

Read for class: The Intended 9 (through end, page 173)


Thurs March 4: synchronous class in Pods,  

Post discussion notes in your Pod discussion board 

Sat March 6: Proposal for Alternative Projects for Final

Sun March 7: Approval and/or feedback from Dr. Anu


week 10—


Tues March 9: last synchronous class with Dr. Anu!

Class Zoom Link

Read for class: literary criticism on The Intended

Read this essay carefully with intention and attention. 

Skim this essay. Get a sense of its arc and flow. 

Thurs March 11:

work on finals!


Monday March 15: Finals due by midnight.



Class Setup and Configuration

This term we will learn together in a few different ways, and on a few different days:

  • Full class discussions will be comprised of all 40-ish of us. Every Tuesday we will meet on Zoom for synchronous class during our regularly scheduled class time.
  • Most Thursdays you will meet on Zoom synchronously in smaller configurations during our regularly scheduled class time. Sometimes I’ll be there with you engaging with Group A, B or C. Each of the three Groups will be comprised of 13ish students. Other days you’ll be working in your Pods. Pods are comprised of 4-5 students. You will be working in Pods frequently this term. Pods will engage with each other’s weekly Reading Responses, and work on parts of their Midterm and Final with one another.

Each of these configurations (the full class; Groups A, B or C; and Pods) will help us learn and grapple with the material in different and complementary ways. My teaching experience has shown me that students understand concepts more deeply when they have a chance to discuss something they have heard from me and fellow students with each other. Group and Pod discussions are meant to nurture this kind of learning, and give you the opportunity to process, unpack and reinforce the offerings from our synchronous class time, as well as practice communication, collaboration and co-creation with each other.




First Look Epistemology, due Friday Jan 8th by 5pm.

This assignment serves as a way to situate and contextualize yourself in relation to the material & ideas we’ll be engaging with this term. 

Path 1: Let’s say you know very little about postcolonialism, theories of migration and identity, and Global South literature. Reflect on how and why these topics might relate to you as a scholar, student, and person in the world. Why is it SO right, SO timely and almost serendipitous that you are in this course right now, at this stage in your education and learning?  

Path 2: Let’s say you know quite a lot about postcolonialism, theories of migration and identity, and Global South literature. Reflect on how and why you came to know what you know. How might a course like this strengthen what you already know with the intellectual equivalent of a good-quality cement? Or how might this course act like an mini earthquake tremor, causing what you know to come tumbling down and rebuilt anew?

This assignment will be evaluated on its thoughtfulness, willingness to probe, and self-investigation. Suggested length 450-500 words/2 pages, double spaced, due Fri Jan 8th by 5pm, uploaded to Canvas.


Connected to Class, due on or before Feb 26.

Attend a free lecture, film screening, performance, presentation or other online opportunity that focuses on “diversity” issues that is held either on or off campus this quarter. To make sure the event you plan to attend will count for this assignment, run your idea by your Podmates first. Write a report that briefly describes the event and explores the connections to our class readings and discussions. Suggested length 350 words/1.5 pages. Floating due date: anytime before Friday Feb 26 midnight. 


Weekly Assignments

We will be working with two primary tools to engage with the readings and course themes:

 Reading Responses and TIPS Letters. Here’s a visual to how our weekly class assignments and class meetings work in conjunction with each other:









Reading Responses due by 7pm.


Class with Dr. Anu



Class with Dr. Anu, and/or Groups or Pods


Respond to two Podmates’ reading responses.



Weekly TIPS Letters due by midnight


Reading Responses with Pods, due weekly-ish

Reading responses are exactly what the title implies: a space to respond to the readings. You can reflect on what you’re noticing, record what questions are coming up, and make connections between the various themes and readings. I’m not looking for simple “I like the reading” or “I don’t like the reading” types of assessment, but something deeper and more robust. Reading responses are not high-stakes formal analytical essays bound to the conventions and traditions of that genre. Instead, these reading responses are low-stakes writing opportunities to help you think and process. This is a space for you to dig in, pull out what interests you, and engage deeply.


Each Pod gets their own Canvas discussion board where every week, you will post your Reading Response, and engage with two of your Podmates’ responses. Reading Responses will:

  • be 500-600 words each
  • engage the new readings we will discuss the following day in our Tuesday classes.
  • be posted to your Pod discussion board by 7pm Monday in order for your Podmates and myself to have an opportunity to read them prior to our Tuesday class meeting
  • give you the opportunity to continue the discussion on Canvas either before or after the Tuesday class session. Please comment on at least two of your Podmates’ responses by Friday of that week with a paragraph or two.


TIPS Letters, due weekly-ish

You will write one weekly TIPS Letter about the readings and/or broader themes we are discussing. The TIPS Letters is an assignment that asks you to write short letters to a range of recipients. TIPS is an acronym for

T: Things, I: Ideas, P: People, and S: Self. (Take a look here and here and especially the customer reviews for more on the original TIPS book and letters.)


Every week I will ask you to write either a T, I, P or S letter. TIPS Letters will:

  • be 350-500ish words each
  • be due by Sunday midnight
  • look back at the week’s readings and themes discussed. The topics of your weekly TIPS Letters and the Reading Responses should not be repetitive. Please cover different themes and ideas in these two assignments.


Just to be clear: Reading Responses look ahead at the readings you’ve been assigned for that coming week and begins the process of grappling with the themes and issues. TIPS Letters look back at the week’s readings and discussions as a way to synthesize the material.


Now and then, I’ll ask you to share one of your TIPS letters with each other. Periodically, I’ll also give you short low-stakes reading quizzes and homework. An example of a short low-stakes homework assignment might be: “Pull out a passage or paragraph that speak to you from this week’s readings. What are two-three writing strategies that the author is using to make this passage stand out to you?”


I will be looking at your Reading Responses and TIPS Letters, though they won’t be graded in the traditional sense. I’ll read them for the big takeaways/questions that come up to bring up in our class discussions.



The Midterm will be composed of a full series of TIPS Letters, each about 500 words long. That means 4  letters, one each to T, I, P and S. We will discuss this in more detail in class.



The Final will be comprised of two components: a full series of TIPS Letters, and a Letter to an Administrator. The TIPS Letters include 4 letters, one each to T, I, P and S, each about 500 words long.  The Letter to an Administrator begins with this (imaginary) premise: The Diversity Requirement and/or VLPA requirement is scheduled to be cancelled. You’ve got an opportunity to write to a UW administrator to convince them that yes, this is a great decision that you support for A and B reasons, or no, the decision to cancel the requirement should be reconsidered for X and Y reasons. We will discuss this assignment in more detail as the quarter progresses.


Thursday synchronous Pod discussion sessions:

You will meet with your Podmates synchronously on 5 scheduled Thursdays throughout this quarter. Please make collective notes about your discussion and post them on Canvas in your Pod discussion group. You have three options for getting your Pod work done this term:



If all or most (i.e. missing 1 person) of your group attends class synchronously on Tuesday, then your group can meet during our designated class time on the 5 Thursdays you are scheduled to meet. You and your group can also arrange to meet at a different time synchronously if that works better. Either way, do this:

  • Have one person in your group post your group-sourced (which means co-written) notes of themes/explorations/questions on your group’s discussion board for that week. Everyone else who was part of this group should post something like “group discussant” or something similar on the discussion board so that Canvas doesn’t think you’ve missed an assignment (and to ensure that you get credit for that week).
  • If you are the missing group member from that week’s small group discussion, then watch the recorded Tuesday class, read your group’s collective post, and post your response (about 200-300 words) to their post by writing what you find most helpful about your group’s post, what you might add on, or a question you still might have.


Mix of synchronously/asynchronously:

If your Pod has more than 2 people participating asynchronously that week:  

  • The people who are attending class synchronously on Thursday should proceed and post as described above for synchronous groups.
  • If you were not present synchronously on Tuesday’s class, watch the class video, and then post as described above for the one person who missed synchronous group discussion.
  • If you are the last person to post for your group (i.e. the 4th or 5th), then your job is to synthesize what you find to be the most interesting points raised in your small group and post about that.



If all members of your Pod did not attend synchronous class Tuesday, follow this template.

  • First poster: After viewing the class video from Tuesday, pick a passage or two that you’d like to focus on in your Pod’s discussion to help explore a particular themes or topic. Explain why you’d like to focus on this passage.
  • Subsequent posters: Explore this chosen passage, and/or suggest other passages that relate to the original. Work towards developing tentative answers or asking questions raised by your exploration.
  • If you are the last person to post for your group (the 4th or 5th), then your job is to synthesize what you find to be the most interesting points raised or questions asked in your small group.


Group and Pod Discussion Best Practices

When you are in your Group A, B or C or in your Pods, keep in mind a few strategies and steps for successful discussion. It’s good to:

--initiate discussion of a passage or passages;

--respond to what someone says by mirroring/paraphrasing what you hear to make sure you understand what the speaker is saying;

--question or clarify what you hear someone saying;

--synthesize what is said after many voices speak

--connect themes and questions to other conversations we’ve been having in this class.


In other words, these groups will be less effective if someone speaks and others respond, “Sounds good,” and the conversation ends there. Push yourselves to paraphrase what you hear to make sure that everyone is on the same page, identify what you really liked about the way someone put something and why, and/or ask questions about what the person said. These methods are proven ways to ensure productive discussion and groupwork.


I’ll also suggest you pay attention to how you are engaging with one another and the group dynamics that are playing out. Might you be someone who enjoys speaking a lot? Great that you’ve got a lot to contribute, AND also, step back a bit so others also feel like they’ve got some space to participate. Practice “reading the room” to be more inclusive and welcoming of different people and styles of communication. Might you be someone who listens and rarely speaks? Practice stepping up in these low-stakes moments so you’re building a foundation of confidence and skills to serve you well in this class and beyond.

Work with the gifts you have, and help each other stretch to build new skills together to enrich us all. :)



This course invites you to work in collaboration with me and your peers to determine what excellence means for both you and for our class. We will work toward this definition, calibrate our assignments toward this, and discuss what excellence looks like in different situations.

I grade differently than I was graded, and teach differently than I was taught. We are in a system in which grades are necessary, but that doesn’t mean they are always the right way to gauge our learning. Consider that in most learning situations outside of school, grades are rarely given. For example: in a personal enrichment yoga, dance or cooking class, grades are not part of the equation. Without any grades, students get better at yoga, dance, and cooking by putting in the time and effort and curiosity to learn. Students still learn without the pressure of grades, and perhaps might even learn more and have more fun during the process.

Now think about the kind of pressure grades put on you versus the pressure you feel in the enrichment course. Think about how you relate to your peers in a graded class versus a personal enrichment class. Some questions arise: How do grades affect learning in classrooms? What social dynamics does the presence of grades create? Who benefits from this, and what does this reflect about the work being done?

Using conventional grading structures to compute course grades often lead students to think more about their grade than about their learning. They worry about pleasing Teacher, and focus their assignments on figuring out what Teacher wants to hear. Additionally, conventional grading may cause you to play it safe and be reluctant to take risks with your writing or ideas.

There’s something of an equity issue involved in this as well. I’m guessing that we’ve all been in classes where someone comes to class already writing well and/or familiar with the concepts we are discussing. This person might be tempted to slack off because they’re confident that they can pull a B+ or A-, not because they’ve learned much, but just because they’ve had a lot of practice writing essays, and they know how to parrot and please Teacher. On the other hand, we’ve all seen—or been!—the student who puts in lots of work and is super engaged, but gets a lower grade because they took risks in their writing, or because they came into the class with less familiarity with the themes, or have had less opportunity to develop their reading/writing abilities. In such cases, traditional grading structures will reward the first student and disadvantage the second student, even though the latter may have learned and stretched more than the former.


I think a course grade should reflect your learning and work in a course, and not what you were already able to do when you entered the course. For these reasons, I use a grading system that prioritizes your learning, labor, and collaborative skills. In our class (like the yoga studio), I’ll provide you with evaluative feedback from time to time, pointing out where you have done well and where I suggest improvement. In this class, you will also learn with and from your peers by discussing together what excellence means in our class, and by helping each other and even relying on each other for feedback, guidance and ideas.

In this course, we will try to create a community of curiosity and compassion. This may sound naïve, but considering the state of our divided country, this goal seems essential to practice! We will function as collaborators with various skills, abilities, experiences, and talents that we offer the group, rather than adversaries working against each other for grades or approval by Teacher.

If you are facing challenges that prevent you from doing the work that would enable you to get a 3.0 in this class, please get in touch with me so that we can work to make arrangements that will be fair and equitable to you and to other students, and that still meet the university’s regulations on attendance, conduct, and workload in classes. Let’s try to work something out, but you have to first communicate with me and let me know what’s going on. :)


Thank you all!


Catalog Description: 
Readings of major texts and writers in postcolonial literature and culture. Surveys some of the most important questions and debates in postcolonial literature, including issues of identity, globalization, language, and nationalism. Cultural focus may vary; see professor for specific details.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
October 13, 2020 - 4:40am