Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Question of Empire

ENGL 595.401
instructor(s):
M 3-6

In the last two years, the question of "empire" has acquired a new and topical urgency. Advocates of the "new American empire" are exhorting the US to learn from European imperialism, while its critics suggest that the murderous history of colonialism is being whitewashed. Is in fact the "new world order" all that new?

This course will examine key issues in the study of the imperial past, including especially basic terms and ideas that have become indispensible within literary and cultural analyses over the past decade. It will also consider the present moment and the possible futures of the imperial idea.

The course is designed to help us understand the overlaps and differences between various areas of study such as postcoloniality, race, minority discourse, nationalism, and globalization, and to consider the place of sexuality and gender in all of them. At the same time it will also equip you to think about methods and approaches to the study of empire, and to the study of literary representations of empire. To this end we will read some central literary texts ranging from Shakespeare's Othello to Tayib Salih's Season of Migration to the North, as well as a selections from key critical wrtings in these fields.

This is an introductory seminar. While I do not expect previous familiarity with the materials, I do expect vigorous participation in every seminar. You will have to keep up a pretty steady pace of reading through the semester. Readings are available in a variety of formats: books ordered at Penn Book Centre, a course packet at Wharton Reprographics, materials on library reserve as well as articles available on the internet which you will have to access and print for yourselves.

A detailed syllabi for the course can be picked up from the Graduate Studies office by Dec 1. I hope to have the books and course packet ready by then. If you intend to take the class it is advisable to start looking over the materials during the break.

Requirements will include a class presentation, a short essay and and a final paper.