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Fictions of Empire

ENGL 259.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective of the Standard Major

This seminar surveys 19th- and 20th-century fictions of empire, examining the characteristic tropes, genres, and thematic preoccupations of both British and American narratives of the colonial encounter. We will consider canonical as well as popular literature/film; our methods will include close stylistic analysis and broad historical comparison. The course proceeds along two tracks:  first, a sequence of set readings (and screenings) with intensive class discussions.  Second, a guided independent research project on some more extensive aspect of the cultural and literary history of Anglo-American imperialism.  For the latter, students will work in small research teams of 2-4 doing common archival work, then go on to write individual final papers on a specific topic emerging from the group research.  Possible topics include the following:  British invasion fiction (1900-1915); comparative Anglo-American spy fiction (Fleming, le Carré, Clancy, Ludlum); "Hollywood Raj" films of the 1930s and Hollywood Anglophilia of the 1980s; British children's literature and empire, comparative US-UK polar exploration; the fiction and film of the Boer and Vietnam wars;  reception studies of Conrad, Forster, and Kipling in post-WWII U.S. criticism; and the cultural afterlives of Tarzan.   We'll divide the time in our weekly meetings between full group discussions and team-based research workshops.  Assigned texts will include Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Haggard'sKing Solomon's Mines, Burroughs'sTarzan of the Apes, Orwell'sBurmese Days, Greene'sOur Man in Havana, Bellow'sHenderson the Rain King, Didion'sBook of Common Prayer, Stone'sFlag for Sunrise, Crichton'sCongo, and short stories by E.M. Forster, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, and Muriel Spark.  We will also screenApocalypse Now(Coppola) andHearts of Darkness(Bahr/Hickenlooper) as well as a few popular British-empire adventure films of the 1930s (e.g.Four Feathers).     Graded assignments will include a brief critical/interpretive essay (5-7 pages), a short bibliographic essay with an annotated source/document list (5-7 pages), and a final research paper (12-15 pages).