English 255: Desire and Empire
W 2-5 Bennett 224
Kathryn Conrad

This page last modified 4/28/97.
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Requirements | Syllabus


Although British imperialism began as early as the reign of Elizabeth I, the British Empire inspired an immense amount of writing during its height in the Victorian period, not only from politicians but from novelists, scientists, and literary critics, among others. In this course, we will read a number of texts which deal, directly or indirectly, with the British Empire, ranging from some of the race theory that ostensibly justified the imperial enterprise to novels which betray a tension between celebration and criticism. In doing so, we will explore what Empire represented to the British during this period, what fears and desires both supported and complicated the imperial project. We will also examine the extent to which literary forms, particularly the novel, served the purpose of imperialism.


Texts for this course are available at House of Our Own Bookstore, 3920 Spruce. Please consult the bookstore for a list of required texts.

A bulkpack for the novel *The Real Charlotte* is available on order at Campus Copy Center, 39th & Walnut. You are welcome to search for this text in bookstores; unfortunately, it is currently out of print.

Many of the readings for the course will be available by the second week of classes at Wharton Reprographics in the basement of Steinberg-Dietrich.


Grades for the course will be based on 2 short (2 page) response papers, an in-class oral presentation of approximately 15-20 minutes, participation (which includes attendance, in-class discussion, and listserver participation), one 8-10 page final paper, and a final exam.

First drafts of response papers are due on the first day on which we discuss any given text. You are allowed to write on any text (literary, critical, etc.) we are reading. You are encouraged to revise your short essays. I will look at revisions and give feedback; once you have handed the essay in for a grade, however, you may no longer revise. The final date on which short essays may be submitted is April 16.

Final essays are due on the last day of class. I will discuss them in more detail as we approach the due date. You are expected to create your own paper topics; I encourage you to give yourself plenty of time to revise. I also highly encourage you to use the


: This syllabus is subject to change. I imagine we might add short texts to our reading, and I also imagine that some discussion will run over the alloted time. For that reason, I have allowed two "buffer days" for us to catch up, potentially screen a film, etc. The scheduling of readings is always open for discussion by the class.

January 15: Introduction

January 22: No class. To be rescheduled at students' convenience.

January 29: *Jane Eyre*. Gilbert and Gubar article.

February 5: Darwin (readings to be found outside my office, Bennett 202, by Friday, January 31). Brantlinger article.

February 12: *She*.

February 19: *Apocalypse Now*.

February 26: *Heart of Darkness*. JanMohammed article.

March 5: Kipling, "The White Man's Burden." Stories.

March 12: More Kipling stories.

March 19: Spring Break

March 26: *A Passage to India*. Herz readings.

April 2: Whitman, "Passage to India." Arnold, "On Celtic Literature."

April 9: *The Real Charlotte*.

April 16: *Wide Sargasso Sea*. Spivak article.

April 23: Final day. Wrap-up.

April 28: Dinner and *Cloud 9*.

May 7, 8:30 am - 10:30 am: Final exam.

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