Undergraduate English Courses

358:436 Literature of British Imperialism, 1870-1920

01    TTH4  CAC  16751    KUCICH  MU-115

 The Literature of British Imperialism, 1870-1920

This seminar will explore the profound impact the British Empire had on novelists during the half-century before the Empire's collapse, with emphasis on the period of massive imperial expansion from 1870 to the end of the First World War. During this period, most works of British fiction were preoccupied with questions about the empire's viability, its moral justifications, its mixing of white and non-white peoples, its potential sexual enticements and dangers, and its role in shaping the desires and the social values of ordinary British citizens. These works tell us a great deal about how the empire was entwined with virtually every aspect of British self-consciousness—even among those who never left their homes in England. They can also tell us a great deal about our own experience today, as citizens of what is, for the moment, the dominant imperial power in the world. We'll read novels, short stories, and a few non-fictional works by Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, H. Rider Haggard, Olive Schreiner, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, and E. M. Forster, as well as two novels by colonial authors "writing back" to the Empire: Chinua Achebe and Nadine Gordimer. In addition, we'll read essays and ancillary materials—both contemporary and historical—to help contextualize the fiction. One short and one long paper, both of which will require independent research and reading (though a great deal of guidance will be provided), as well as two substantial book reports on outside readings.