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Decolonising Literature



King's College London


Polity Press







Decolonizing Literature is part of Polity’s Decolonizing the Curriculum series, aimed at undergraduates and educators. I argue that the decolonization of the literature curriculum requires a change to not only what, but how, we read. The book takes stock of what has been achieved so far and challenges readers to think about where we go from here. It suggests a number of ways to recognize and respond to the political work that texts do, considering questions of language and translation, comparative reading, ideological argument, and genre in relation to the history of anticolonial struggle. Each chapter includes reflection exercises and summary boxes to facilitate its use in the classroom.

Recent efforts to diversify and decentre the literary canon taught at universities have been moderately successful. Yet this expansion of our reading lists is only the start of a broader decolonization of literary studies as a discipline; there is much left to be done. How can students and educators best participate in this urgent intellectual and political project?

Table of Contents

1 Decolonization and Literature: A History
2 Unfinished Business: How Do We Decolonize Literature?
3 Language and Translation: What Is ‘English’ Literature?
4 ‘A Comparative Literature of Imperialism’: Reading Colonial and Anticolonial Texts Together
5 Telling a Collective Story: Literature and Anticolonial Struggle
6 Decolonizing Genre: Anticolonial Understandings of Literary Craft

Decolonizing Literature is the book we need today. Reminding us of the transformative possibilities of politicized literary criticism, Anna Bernard is continuing the legacy of Edward Said, Barbara Harlow, and Benita Parry by helping us imagine ourselves into different futures.’
Anthony C. Alessandrini, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York

‘A full and substantial introduction to the contentious topic of “decolonizing” the English literary curriculum. Bernard’s account, which is fully cognisant of the challenges of this project, is lucid and accessible but never glib or shallow.’
Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge

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