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Desire and Empire

ENGL 255.301
W 2-5

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. Writers are likely to include Kipling, C. Bronte, Darwin, Haggard, Conrad, Forster, and Arnold; we will also read some contemporary colonial/postcolonial theory. Requirements: regular participation, oral presentations, short critical papers, and one longer paper.