Students on this module read a range of eighteenth-century writing (such as novels, memoirs, essays, travel writing, poetry and philosophy) associated with the history of empire, focusing on the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Students will develop an understanding of literary and philosophical writing in relation to historically-enduring issues and ideas about empire, race and colony. Topics for discussion may include the English encounter with the non-European world; the rise of the novel and colonial expansion; cross-cultural encounters; exploration and discovery; slave narrative and anti-slavery debates; colonialism and trade; the representation of cultural difference; and the theory of the colony and the empire.
Writing Empire is taught in an innovative format worth 30 credits in one semester. We will meet twice a week, for two hours each time (total 4 hours a week). There will be one major text to read in most weeks, on which we will spend two or three classes.
course begins by studying four indicative literary texts that explore the
interface between the history of empire and literature of the long eighteenth
century: Defoe's Robinson Crusoe,
Behn's Oroonoko, Cook's Journals and Equiano's Narrative. In the second half of the
course we will explore some of the key debates arising from colonial encounter
and imperial endeavour as they are reflected by creative writers and political
philosophers: slavery, slave rebellion, cannibalism, the state of nature, and property. If it is possible, we will
make one visit to a museum (such as the Exploration galleries at the National
Maritime Museum), or go on a walk around central London.
The module will have a module pack, which will supply all the material we read except for the following key texts. You should have your own copy of each of these (buy one or borrow from a library)
- Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, (1688). You can read any edition, but I recommend the OUP one. The novel is also available free online, and as a free audio book.
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe,
(1718). You can read any edition, but I recommend the OUP one. The novel is also available free online, and as a free audio book.
- James Cook, 'Voyage of the Endeavour', extract from The
Journals of Captain Cook, (1768-80). For the module, I've made an extract of parts of the first voyage dealing with Tahiti, Aotearoa New Zealand and New South Wales: it is a pdf that you can download by following the link above. There is a Penguin edition of the three voyages that you would be welcome to read in advance too, but note you only need to read the first voyage.
- Olaudah Equiano, The Life of
Gustavus Vassa, The African, (1789). You can read any edition, but I recommend the Penguin one edited by Vincent Carretta. The novel is also available free online, and as a free audio book.
Later in the module we will also read other short texts, all of which will be in a free module pack. Among them is
Some other preparation you could do might include: