English 960 (Seminar in 20th-c. Brit. Lit.): LITERATURE OF EMPIRE

7-9:30 Wednesday, 3132 Wescoe
Professor Kathryn Conrad

[description] [texts] [requirements] [online resources] [reading schedule]

In this course, we will focus on writing from the "twilight years" of the British Empire:  the turn of the 20th century until today.  Empire continued to shape British culture--and British anxiety--well after its height in the Victorian period.   We will read from a variety of genres and texts, ranging from some of the racial theory that ostensibly justified the imperial enterprise to the ostensibly pro-imperialist fiction of the Modernist period to contemporary reexaminations of Empire and its relationship to a variety of other desires. In doing so, we will explore what it means to be an "imperial subject"  by examining how Empire shaped and was shaped by sexuality, class, race, nationalism, and gender.  We will also examine how literature variously supported, complicated, and resisted the imperial project.

Although this is not primarily a postcolonial literature course, we will read some more recent writing by postcolonial authors and critics.  This course should appeal to students interested in cultural studies, postcolonial theory and literature,  feminist and queer theory, and Modernist and contemporary literature as well as those preparing for examinations.  No background in either the period or the theory is expected.

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We will read primary texts by Matthew Arnold, Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, Rudyard Kipling, Joyce Cary, Jean Rhys, Caryl Churchill, and Brian Friel, as well as some texts selected by the class.  Criticism will include works by Hall, Viswanathan, Achebe, McClintock, and others.

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Students will be expected to deliver one substantial presentation, participate in class discussion, and write one critical paper of 20-30 pages.

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  • Victorian and fin-de-siecle:
  • Modern and contemporary:
  • Theory:
  • General/miscellaneous:
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    (cp) indicates that the reading is available in the photocopied coursepack.
    (ho) indicaties that the reading will be given as a handout.

    W 8/25    Introduction; sign-up for presentations.

    W 9/1     Hall (cp), Viswanathan (cp), Arnold (cp).

    W 9/8     Conrad, Achebe, Brantlinger (cp).

    W 9/15    Forster.  See Walt Whitman's poem, "Passage to India".

    W 9/22    Kipling, McClintock (cp).  See Kipling's poem, "The White Man's Burden".

    (Th 9/23  Ngugi wa Thiong'o, 7-9 pm, Centennial Room, Kansas Union)

    W 9/29    Kipling.

    W 10/6    Cary.

    W 10/13   Rhys, Spivak (cp).

    W 10/20   Churchill.

    W 10/27   Friel, reviews.

    W 11/3    The Crying Game, O'Connor (ho).

    W 11/10   student choice:  Kureishi, Borderline (ho). (See http://www.HanifKureishi.com/ for some current works by Kureishi.)

    W 11/17   student choice: Naipaul, Guerrillas.

    W 11/24   Thanksgiving break

    W 12/1    Last day

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