Department of English UG Module Directory (2020)

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Manifestos in the Modern Political Imaginary

Level 6 (15 credits)

This module deals with manifestos as political and literary documents. Through reference to the publication histories of specific texts, we will work through questions of authorship, authority and address, and the transformation of the genre as it is appropriated by disenfranchised groups. Our main focus will be literature responding to global crises which had a profound impact on the arts, and struggles against slavery and colonialism: the French Revolution, WW1 and WW2. But we will also consider more recent examples, which make use of new media and express distinct political aims.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

The course will deal with transformation of the genre as it is appropriated by those with uncertain purchase on the category 'human', and as it becomes a medium for expression of antihumanist and posthumanist thought. We will also consider the manifesto in an era of new types of media technology and state power - incorporating the sonic and the visual, and going beyond the state to address transnational audiences. 

Manifestos will be considered in relation to religious works such as the Gita (1/2 CE) and the Book of Jeremiah (627/626 BC - 586 BC); radical humanist texts such as Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man (1791-2) and Mary Wollstoncroft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792); as well as constitutions and directives including the French Constitution of 1793, the Haitian Constitution of 1801, the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Constitution of India (1949-1950) and Asia-Africa speaks from Bandung (1955). 

Students will select texts for us to discuss in the final week of the course, and have the option to produce a manifesto as part of their second assignment.  All students will also have the opportunity to write and design a manifesto, print it during a one-day pamphlet making course at the London Centre for Book Arts, and then exhibit the final product at an exhibition taking place in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, in Summer 2021. (Contact Pragya Dhital at for further details.) 

Indicative reading list

Robert Alexander Young. The Ethiopian Manifesto: Issued in Defence of the Black Man's Rights in the Scale of Universal Freedom. 1829
Marx and Engels. The Communist Manifesto. 1849
F. T. Marinetti. Manifesto of Futurism. 1909
MK Gandhi. Hind Swaraj. 1909
Mina Loy. Feminist Manifesto. 1914
Tristan Tzara. Dada Manifesto1918
André Breton. First Manifesto of Surrealism.1924
Oswald de Andrade. Cannibalist Manifesto. 1928
Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. Philosophy of the Bomb.  1929
Aimé Césaire. On Colonialism. 1950
Franz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth. 1961
Valerie Solanas. The SCUM Manifesto. 1967
Jenny Holzer. Inflammatory Essays. 1979-82
Donna Harraway. The Cyborg Manifesto. 1985
Theodore Kaczynski. The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future. 1995
Jack Linchuan Qiu. Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition. Jack Linchuan Qiu. 2016

Secondary literature:
Bayly, Christopher. The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons. 2004.
Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Revolution : Europe 1789-1848, The Age Of Empire: 1875-1914, The Age of Extremes: 1914–1991. 1988, 1989 and 1994. 
Puchner, Martin. Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Gardes. 2006.  

Learning Context Long Seminar
Semester 2

1. Written Assignment 1 (1500 words), 30%
2. Written Assignment 2 (3000 words), 70%

Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Pragya Dhital