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Centring Women of Colour: Decolonising the Literature Curriculum with Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire and Bolu Babalola’s Love in Colour

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Decolonising the Literature Curriculum

Part of the book series: Teaching the New English ((TENEEN))

Abstract

Beyer’s chapter explores pedagogical strategies for decolonising the literature curriculum through contemporary writing by women of colour on a third-year undergraduate module for English Literature and Creative Writing students. By analysing Kamila Shamsie’s novel Home Fire and Bolu Babalola’s short story collection, Love in Colour, Beyer examines how these authors write back to the white male canon by placing women of colour at the centre of their narratives. Beyer’s chapter investigates ways of teaching this material and devising student assessments which challenge privilege and open up new conversations with students about race, gender, and intersectionality and the role of literature in challenging hegemonies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Kees W. Bolle refers to myth as “a symbolic narrative” which is “at least partly traditional” and which may feature “accounts of gods or superhuman beings involved in extraordinary events or circumstances in a time that is unspecified but which is understood as existing apart from ordinary human experience.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/myth Bolle, K. W., Smith, Jonathan Z. and Buxton, Richard G.A. “Myth.” Encyclopedia Britannica, November 3, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/myth

  2. 2.

    Charlotte Beyer, “The stuff of legend, or unpacking cultural baggage? Introducing first-year English literature and humanities students to foundational literary texts.” Changing English 20, no. 4 (2013): 395–403. Charlotte Beyer, “‘Life Was a State in Which a War Was On’: AS Byatt’s Portrayal of War and Norse Mythology in Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,” in War, Myths, and Fairy Tales, edited by Buttsworth, Sara, and Maartje Abbenhuis, pp. 195–218. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Charlotte Beyer, “Reimagining Myth and the Maternal with Ruth Fainlight, Margaret Atwood and Katie Donovan.” Women Versed in Myth: Essays on Modern Poets edited by Colleen S. Harris and Valerie E. Frankel, pp. 50–58. McFarland, Jefferson, 2016.

  3. 3.

    There is not the scope here to examine in depth the issues around online teaching and decolonisation; nevertheless, I wanted to state what the mode of delivery was in this case, as this formed the context for my pedagogical reflections.

  4. 4.

    See also Jordan Kistler. “Class participation marks and gender in the humanities seminar.” Journal of Academic Development and Education 11 (2019): 16–22; and Aimee Merrydew, “Tackling Inequalities: Building a ‘healthier’ Curriculum through Feminist Reflexivity,” KITE Student Education Conference 2020, University of Keele.

  5. 5.

    Charlotte Beyer, “Exploring Postcolonial and Feminist Issues: Rabbit-Proof Fence in a Teaching Context.” Changing English 17, no. 1 (2010): 93–101.

  6. 6.

    Judy Rohrer, “‘It’s in the room’: reinvigorating feminist pedagogy, contesting neoliberalism, and trumping post-truth populism.” Teaching in Higher Education 23, no. 5 (2018): 588

  7. 7.

    Rosalba Icaza Garza and Sara de Jong. “Introduction: Decolonization and Feminisms in Global Teaching and Learning – A radical space of possibility,” in Decolonization and feminisms in global teaching and learning, eds. by Sara De Jong, Rosalba Icaza, and Olivia U. Rutazibwa, xv–xxxiv. London: Routledge, 2018.

  8. 8.

    Jason Arday, Dina Zoe Belluigi, and Dave Thomas. “Attempting to break the chain: reimaging inclusive pedagogy and decolonising the curriculum within the academy.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 53, no. 3 (2021): 298–313.

  9. 9.

    Ruvani Ranasinha, “Guest Editorial: Decolonizing English.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. 54 issue: 2 (2019): 120.

  10. 10.

    Penny Jane Burke and Ronelle Carolissen. “Gender, post-truth populism and higher education pedagogies,” Teaching in Higher Education, 23 no. 5 (2018): 545.

  11. 11.

    Sarah Bond, “Why We Need to Start Seeing the Classical World in Color.” Hyperallergic. June 7 (2017). https://hyperallergic.com/383776/why-we-need-to-start-seeing-the-classical-world-in-color/. Accessed 20 June 2021.

  12. 12.

    Bond, “Classical,” n.p.

  13. 13.

    Merja Makinen, “Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and the decolonization of feminine sexuality.” Feminist Review 42, no. 1 (1992): 2–15.

  14. 14.

    See also Andrew Northedge, “Rethinking teaching in the context of diversity.” Teaching in Higher Education, 8, no. 1 (2002): 17–32.

  15. 15.

    Aamer Shaheen, Sadia Qamar, and Muhammad Islam. “Obsessive ‘Westoxification’ Versus the Albatross of Fundamentalism and Love as Collateral Damage in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.” Journal of Research (Humanities) 54 (2018): 151

  16. 16.

    O’Reilly, Elizabeth. Kamila Shamsie—critical perspective. https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/kamila-shamsie. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  17. 17.

    Veyret, Paul. “Fractured territories: Deterritorializing the contemporary Pakistani novel in English.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (2018): 0021989418808039. 307.

  18. 18.

    Aamer Shaheen, Sadia Qamar, and Muhammad Islam. “Obsessive ‘Westoxification’ Versus the Albatross of Fundamentalism and Love as Collateral Damage in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.” Journal of Research (Humanities) 54 (2018): 158.

  19. 19.

    Lisa Lau and Ana Cristina Mendes. “Twenty-First-Century Antigones: The Postcolonial Woman Shaped by 9/11 in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.” Studies in the Novel 53, no. 1 (2021): 55.

  20. 20.

    Maria Tamboukou, “Antigone Re-Imagined: Uprooted Women’s Political Narratives.” Feminist Theory, (April 2021). https://doi.org/10.1177/14647001211005298. 1.

  21. 21.

    Rose Jaya Bhattacharji. Interview: Kamila Shamsie on her Bold and Heart-Breaking New Novel, “Home Fire”. 30 August 2017. http://www.jayabhattacharjirose.com/interview-kamila-shamsie-on-her-bold-and-heart-breaking-new-novel-home-fire/. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  22. 22.

    Veyret, “Fractured”, 311.

  23. 23.

    Veyret, “Fractured”, 312.

  24. 24.

    John Boyne, “Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: Provocative Work from a Brave Author.” The Irish Times, 26 Aug. 2017. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/home-fire-by-kamila-shamsie-provocative-work-from-a-brave-author-1.3193353. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  25. 25.

    Lau and Mendes, “Antigones”, 54.

  26. 26.

    N.a. What is Orientalism? Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes. Arab American National Museum (AANM), n.d. http://arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  27. 27.

    N.a., “Orientalism.”

  28. 28.

    I am indebted to my former dissertation student, Maryam Shafaq, for treating this subject in her dissertation, “The Representation of Women in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire.” (Undergraduate dissertation, University of Gloucestershire, 2020. Unpublished.)

  29. 29.

    Firouzeh Ameri, “Veiled experiences: Rewriting women’s identities and experiences in contemporary Muslim fiction in English.” PhD diss., Murdoch University, 2012.

  30. 30.

    Feroza Jussawalla and Doaa Omran, eds. Memory, Voice, and Identity: Muslim Women’s Writing from across the Middle East. London: Routledge, 2021.

  31. 31.

    Sara Gill, “Representations of Muslim Women in Western Media.” Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, 29 August 2017. https://centreforfeministforeignpolicy.org/journal/2017/8/24/representation-muslim-women-western-media. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  32. 32.

    See, for example, Lisa Bent, “As a romance novelist, it makes no sense to me that Black love stories are anomalies in literature.” The Independent, 30 October 2020. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/black-love-romance-literature-bhm-racism-jacaranda-books-b1396240.html. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  33. 33.

    Lois Beckett, “Fifty Shades of White: The Long Fight against Racism in Romance Novels.” The Guardian, 4 April 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/04/fifty-shades-of-white-romance-novels-racism-ritas-rwa. Accessed 20 June 2021.

  34. 34.

    Bent, “Anomalies”.

  35. 35.

    Sareeta Domingo, The Black British Women Writing Themselves into Romance Novels. Black Ballad, 23 September 2020. https://blackballad.co.uk/views-voices/black-british-women-romance-fiction. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  36. 36.

    Bent, “Anomalies”.

  37. 37.

    Dalia Gebrial, “Decolonising desire: the politics of love.” Versobooks.com. 13 February 2017. https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3094-decolonising-desire-the-politics-of-love. 1 June 2021.

  38. 38.

    Tracey Walters, African American literature and the classicist tradition: black women writers from Wheatley to Morrison. Springer, 2007.

  39. 39.

    Donald Haase, Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies). Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004. Kindle Edition.

  40. 40.

    Bolu Babalola, Love in Colour. London: Headline, 2020. Kindle Edition. 160–161.

  41. 41.

    Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Pyramus and Thisbe.” Encyclopedia Britannica, March 27, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pyramus. Accessed 20 June 2021.

  42. 42.

    Walters, “Classicist”, 4.

  43. 43.

    Bent, “Anomalies”.

  44. 44.

    Bowler, Danielle, “Babalola’s Love is in the Details.” New Frame, 25 November 2020. https://www.newframe.com/bolu-babalolas-love-is-in-the-details/. Accessed 1 June 2021.

  45. 45.

    Haase, Fairy Tales and Feminism, n.p.

  46. 46.

    Walters, “Classicist”, 12.

  47. 47.

    Andrew Northedge, “Rethinking teaching in the context of diversity.” Teaching in Higher Education, 8, no. 1 (2002): 17–32.

  48. 48.

    This is also a point made by Aimee Merrydew.

  49. 49.

    I have also explored this function of literature in my monograph, Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Writing Back to History and Oppression. Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2021.

  50. 50.

    Rohrer, “Room,” 576.

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Beyer, C. (2022). Centring Women of Colour: Decolonising the Literature Curriculum with Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire and Bolu Babalola’s Love in Colour. In: Beyer, C. (eds) Decolonising the Literature Curriculum. Teaching the New English. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-91289-5_3

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