Post-Colonial Poetry and Drama (F11)

Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario

English 212:
Post-Colonial Drama and Poetry


Andrew Bretz
Office Hours: Tuesday 3.30-4.30
Skype Office Hours: TBA

Course Description:

This reading intensive course provides a brief overview of some of the major works of post-colonial drama and poetry from around the Commonwealth.  The vast geographic size and cultural breadth of the nations of the former British Empire result in a subject far too large to cover in a single course, so we will focus our investigations through three topics.

The first few weeks will look at how the English expanded their hegemony over Great Britain from the middle ages into the mid-nineteenth century and then how that hegemony fell apart as revolutions fractured the apparent unity of the “British” peoples.  The next section of the course will look at the economic forces that gave rise to the transcontinental British Empire.  From the movement away from overland trade routes to the east through the Ottoman Empire, which dominated medieval international relations, to the discovery of the New World and the development of settler-invader colonies on the coast of North America, this section will look at the ways in which ideologies of trade, religion and race were expressed through literature of the time.  This section will end with a look at the unprecedented impact of Abolitionist poetry on the slave trade. The final section we will look at will be an investigation of the twentieth-century literary production of Nigeria, South Africa and the Caribbean.  Again, because of the breadth and scope of the literary production in these areas, this course cannot hope to cover everything.  Instead, with each area, we will look at a particular concept or theme.  With South Africa, we will look at the literary responses to the major injustice of twentieth-century South Africa – apartheid.  In Nigeria, we will be looking at how traditional religions and belief systems work to construct individual and group identity.  In the Caribbean, we will be looking first at the political import of the re-appropriation of Western texts such as The Odyssey by writers like Derek Walcott.  Then we will look at the oral traditions of Caribbean poetry from calypso and reggae to dub and spoken word.

N.B. – There is a heavy focus on oral traditions of poetry in this course and many of the poems will be available online as songs for listening.  Please come to class having both read the poems/plays (where available) and listened to the performances.


Course Objectives:

By the end of this course students will be expected to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the history and contexts of the expansion of English hegemony over first the British Isles and eventually the nations of the Empire; also demonstrate how, and when, that hegemony began to fall apart.
  • Comfortably and appropriately use terms of Post-Colonial analysis such as (but not limited to): Hegemony, Subaltern, Appropriation, Creolization, Capital, Resistance…
  • Demonstrate analytical skill through writing in a short essay format.
  • Demonstrate research skills and oral communication skills through a short (10-15 minute) research presentation on a given topic.


Required Texts:


Anitafrika, d’bi Young.  Sankofa: Blood Claat, benu, and word! sound! powah! Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press. ISBN: 1770910182.

Fugard, Athol, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona.  Statements.  New York: Theatre Communications Group, Inc., 1986. ISBN: 0930452615

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest.  Ed. Stephen Orgel. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. ISBN: 0199535906.

Soyinka, Wole.  Death and the King’s Horseman. Ed. Simon Gikandi. New York: Norton, 2002. ISBN: 0393977617.

Walcott, Derek.  The Odyssey: A Stage Version. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993. ISBN: 978-0-374-52387-9.



Assignments & Value, Due Dates:

Assignment Due Date Value
Mid-term #1 Monday, October 3 25%
Mid-term #2 Friday, October 28 25%
Essay Monday, December 5 25%
Group Presentation Variable 15%
Participation N/A 10%
  TOTAL 100%


Description of Assignments:


Mid-terms: Two open book mid-terms will be administered through the course.  The midterms will take the form of a number of short answer questions and a single short essay.  (Date[s]: Monday, October 3; Wednesday, October 26.)

/25 + /25

Essay: The research essay will be 1500-2000 words.  Please hand the paper in electronically, via email, to  I will acknowledge receipt of the paper within 24 hours.  If you haven’t got an acknowledgement of receipt, then I don’t have it and you may well be accruing late marks. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that I have your paper.  Those who wish their papers returned to them must indicate so on their papers and make arrangements with me to get the paper back to them prior to handing in their paper.


Group Presentation: The Group Presentation will comprise two parts: the presentation and the written component.  Students will be expected to do research and synthesize the results of their research in an oral presentation.  I will be looking for accuracy, analytical rigor, cultural sensitivity and rhetorical ability.  Imagination, as always, is a plus.

Presentation: Students will choose a topic for presentation and present on that topic on the day assigned (see below).  When more than one student wishes to present on a given day, you will comprise a group and will be expected to present as a group.  All presentations, whether individual or group, are to be 10-15 minutes in length.  Individuals in a group will be marked for their individual contribution, not as a group.

Written Component: Every individual student will hand in a 2 page summary of their presentation/part of the presentation.  In addition to the 2 page summary, students should also hand in a works cited in MLA format.  This will be an integral part of the assessment process, so failure to hand in a written summary will result in failure of the presentation assignment.  The written component MUST be in MLA format.


Participation: A student receiving a 10 or 9 comes to class prepared; contributes readily to the conversation but doesn’t dominate it: makes thoughtful contributions that advance the conversation; shows interest in and respect for others’ views; participates actively in small groups.  For a further breakdown on the Class Participation Rubric, please look at the course website.



Weekly Reading & Presentation Schedule


Date Assignments/ Group Presentation Topics Readings
Monday, September 12
Wednesday, September 14 Gilbert, Helen and Joanne Tompkins – Intro to Post-Colonial Drama
Friday, September 16 Burns, Robert – Robert Bruce’s Address to his Troops at Bannockburn, or, Scots Wha Hae
M Sept 19 Burns, Robert – The Battle of Sherramuir

Burns, Robert –Killicrankie

Burns, Robert – A Parcel o’ Rogues

Burns, Robert – Johnnie Cope

W Sept 21 Who was Oliver Cromwell and why does he matter to Irish History? Marvell, Andrew – A Horatian Ode of Cromwell’s Return from Ireland
Yeats, W. B. – The Curse of Cromwell
F Sept 23 The Plough and the Stars Riot; the Playboy of the Western World Riot Gore-Booth, Eva – The Land to a Landlord
Traditional – She Moves Through the Fair
Colum, Padraic – The Boyne Water
Colum, Padraic – The Peeler and the Goat
M Sept 26 Who was Roger Casement?  What role did he play in the uprising? Pearse, Padraig – Christmas 1915
Pearse, Padraig – The Mother
Pearse, Padraid – The Wayfarer
Pearse, Padraig – I am Ireland
O’Neill, Canon Charles – The Foggy Dew
W Sept 28 Read Aloud (both) and provide a formal analysis of (one of) “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “Easter 1916” Yeats, W. B. – The Ghost of Roger Casement
Yeats, W. B. – An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
Yeats, W. B. – Easter 1916
Yeats, W. B. – The Lake Isle of Innisfree
Yeats, W. B. – Sixteen Dead Men
F Sept 30 What is in a name?  Why should it matter if it is called the “Sepoy Munity” or the “Indian Rebellion” or “The First War of Indian Independence” (As Marx and Engels wanted)? Kipling, Rudyard – The White Man’s Burden
Kipling, Rudyard – Gunga Din
Rosetti, Christina – In the Round Tower at Jhansi
M Oct 3 Mid-term 25%
W Oct 5 The Age of Exploration: Why go west?  Who went there and when? Shakespeare, William – The Tempest
F Oct 7 Perform a scene from The Tempest and provide a formal analysis Shakespeare, William – The Tempest
W Oct 12 Is Prospero’s Island Supposed to be Bermuda? The New World?  Ireland?  A Mediterranean Island?  All of the above?  None of the above? Shakespeare, William – The Tempest
F Oct 14 How has racial difference in The Tempest been performed on stage and/or in film in the 20th Century?  Choose one performance and analyze closely or several and note key similarities and differences. Shakespeare, William – The Tempest
M Oct 17 Where does the term “Middle Passage” come from/To what does it refer? Fergus, Howard – Ethnocide
Wheatley, Phyllis – On Being Brought from Africa to America
Wheatley, Phyllis – Liberty and Peace
Burns, Robert – On a Scotch Bard…
Burns, Robert – The Slave’s Lament
Newton, John – Amazing Grace
W Oct 19 Where does the term “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” come from? Lamb, Mary – The Conquest of Prejudice
Williams, Francis – From An Ode to George Haldane, Governor of the Island of Jamaica
M. H. – A Poor Negro Beggar’s Petition and Complaint
Anon. – A Popular Negro Song
F Oct 21 No Group Presentation Anon. – Zion me Wan Go Home
Mutabaruka –  Free Up de Lan, White Man
Mutabaruka – Revolutionary Poets
Bennett, Louise –  Back to Africa
Bennett, Louise –  Colonization in Reverse
McKay, Claude – Subway Wind
Johnson, Linton Kwesi – Inglan is a Bitch
M Oct 24 Read Aloud two poems, provide a formal analysis of one. Moreton, J. B. – Ballad
McKay, Claude – Fetchin Water
McKay, Claude – The White House
McKay, Claude – If We Must Die
McKay, Claude – Baptism
Fergus, Howard – Forecast
W Oct 26 No Group Presentation Mutabaruka – dis poem
Bennett, Louise – Jamaica Oman
Bloom, Valerie.  – Trench Town Shock (A Soh Dem Sey)
McTair, Roger – Politics Kaiso
Johnson, Linton Kwesi – Sonny’s Lettah
F Oct 28 Mid-term 25%
M Oct 31 A Short History of Apartheid Fugard et al. – The Coat
W Nov 2 What does Said mean by “Resistance”?  How might that term/concept help you to understand this text? Fugard, Athol.  “The Coat, (From Notebooks 1960/1977)”
F Nov 4 What was Robbin Island Prison? What was its place in the cultural imagination of Apartheid era South Africa? Fugard, Athol – The Island
M Nov 7 Perform a scene from The Island, provide a formal analysis of it. Fugard, Athol – The Island
W Nov 9 What is “the subaltern”?  How might that term/concept help you to understand this text? Soyinka, Wole – Death and the King’s Horseman
F Nov 11 How does Soyinka use language to create exclusive groupings of people? Soyinka, Wole – Death and the King’s Horseman
M Nov 14 Perform a Scene from Death and the King’s Horseman and provide a formal analysis of it. Soyinka, Wole – Death and the King’s Horseman
W Nov 16 No Group Presentation Soyinka, Wole.  “From Drama and the African World View (1976)”
F Nov 18 Discuss Homer’s Odyssey – Its story and legacy in western culture. Walcott, Derek – The Odyssey Act One
M Nov 21 What is “appropriation” in the context of Post-Colonial Studies?  How might that help you understand this text? Walcott, Derek – The Odyssey Act One
W Nov 23 How are Caribbean religious beliefs and forms reflected or interrogated in The Odyssey? Walcott, Derek – The Odyssey Act Two
F Nov 25 Perform a scene from The Odyssey and provide a formal analysis of it. Hill, Errol – “From The Emergence of a National Drama in the West Indies (1972)”
M Nov 28 What is dub?  Where did it come from? Young, d’bi – Blood Claat
W Nov 30 Perform a scene from Blood Claat and provide a formal analysis. Young, d’bi – Blood Claat
F Dec 2 No Group Presentation Young, d’bi – Blood Claat
M Dec 5 Shoulder Day & Conclusion – No Group Presentation Review & Conclusion – No Readings



An assignment is considered “late” if the student and I have not agreed at least 24 hours beforehand to an alternate deadline to the one noted on this course outline.  Students handing in essays late will be docked 5% per calendar day until the essay is handed in or until 10 calendar days have passed, at which time the assignment will receive 0%.  Extenuating medical circumstances will, obviously, be grounds for compassionate waiver of late penalties.


Accessible Learning

Students with disabilities or special needs are advised to contact Laurier’s Accessible Learning Office for information regarding its services and resources.  Students are encouraged to review the Calendar for information regarding all services available on campus.


Academic Misconduct

Wilfrid Laurier University uses software that can check for plagiarism,  Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form and have it checked for plagiarism.


FOOT Patrol


After evening classes call 886-FOOT for a walk or drive home – No Walk is Too Short or Too Long!!!@