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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Commodities of Empire: Colonialism, Ecology, Culture (ENLI10413)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to understand how the imperialist exploitation of raw materials and commodities from colonial peripheries has given birth to the civilisational concepts of culture, etiquette, racial superiority, and imperialism in Britain. It explores how commodity exploitation and resource struggle have continued in the postcolonial world resulting in environmental and cultural conflicts between vested groups nationally and internationally. It interrogates Edinburgh's connections to its colonial past through a planned museum visit/walking tour across the university/Royal Mile. It further exposes students to exciting new tools to handle the complex topic ranging from literary theory, postcolonial studies, environmental humanities, cultural studies, history, and public humanities. Finally, it enables students to critically think about commodities around us, and their historical legacy and cultural presence in our everyday life.
Course description The course includes relevant topics in colonial and postcolonial literature and ecocriticism. The first week introduces students to key concepts of empire, colonialism, postcolonialism, commodity, and culture with excerpts of texts by key postcolonial thinkers such as Said, Spivak, Williams, Lazarus, and Chaudhuri. It also uses a short essay from Dickens on 'cigars' to show how we will be reading literature through their attendant historical, cultural, and socio-ecological contexts. From the second week onward, we will tackle individual commodities and their texts based on fur, opium, statues, land, potato/rice, oil, water and others. The list of texts, given below, will show the extent and breadth of the course expanding upon the world-literary contexts of commodities and colonialism and suggesting how postcolonialism is as much a historical discourse as it is global, every day, and contemporary. The course also includes a walking tour in the fifth week through which students will be able to perceive and contextualise the production of culture and colonialist values in our contemporary world and learn to develop critical frameworks to understand them in the global postcolonial context.

Students will be taught through seminar discussion of these texts and their topics which range from race, slavery, gender, sexual violence, nonhuman animals, built environment, dark tourism, disability, oil corporatism, decolonisation, and others. They will also take a walking tour to better inform and understand the contemporary cultural contexts of consumption of colonialist values in the metropolises of empire. They will be further taught through assignments and verbal feedback.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) OR English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) AND Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) AND Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023) OR English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) OR Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements For students who took First Year courses prior to session 2021-22, a pass in English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) or Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) is an acceptable equivalent."
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. conceptualise critically how resource extraction and commodity circulation from the periphery to the metropole and vice versa have shaped imperial and postcolonial societies and cultures.
  2. explain, employ, and analyse'advanced critical approaches to the study of colonial and postcolonial literatures (including new approaches from the environmental humanities, world-systems theory, postcolonial ecology, cultural anthropology, object theory, and development economics).
  3. synthesise, summarize, and analyse'practical and contemporary knowledge of Edinburgh's colonial legacies through planned museum/walking tours and learn about different methods of producing cultural knowledge.
  4. develop appropriate methodologies to address topics'relating to race, class, capitalism, urbanity, public culture and decolonisation, thereby enhancing employability opportunities in academia and cognate sectors.
Reading List
Dickens, 'Cigars', All the Year Round (1865) (journal essay)

Rose Terry Cooke, 'A Sealskin Jacket: A Story for Girls' (1882); Rudyard Kipling, 'The White Seal','The Jungle Book'(1894) (short stories)

Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies (2008) (novel)

Tom Murphy, Famine (1977) (play)

Vanessa Kisuule, 'Hollow' (2020); Walking Trip across the university (poem/walk)

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (1988) (non-fiction essay)

Lynn Nottage: Ruined (2009) (play)

Helon Habila,'Oil on Water'(London: Penguin, 2011) (novel)

Rita Wong, undercurrent (2015) (poem)

Leila Aboulela, 'The Museum' (1999) (short story)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and Understanding: Students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge of key topics in contemporary literary cultural and socio-political public debates'of empire, decolonisation, slavery, sexual violence, commodities, literary consumption, and others.

Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: In their work for formative class presentation and discussion and summative assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material.'Through taking part in a walking tour, they will further note the 'production' of capitalist and colonial cultural values through triumphalist gestures of statues of people who may have encouraged slavery and colonialism thereby suggesting a complicated heritage of the postimperial city. These exercises will be key to developing important graduate attributes of critical thinking, creative writing, and journalistic skills.

Generic Cognitive Skills: Through group work and completing assessed essays, students will have practiced identifying, designing, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline.'By discussing key 'public facing' topics and participating in the walking trip, they will also develop cognitive skills of understanding public debates as well as of writing for the public.

Communication: Through participating in class presentation and group discussions as well as writing two formally assessed tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists.''

Autonomy and Working with Others: Students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.'
Additional Class Delivery Information one 2-hour Seminar per week (one week = walking tour);
one 1-hour Autonomous Learning Group per week (at time to be arranged)
KeywordsCommodities; raw material; extraction; imperialism; anti-colonialism; postcolonialism; literature;
Course organiserDr Sourit Bhattacharya
Tel: (0131 6)50 3611
Course secretaryMrs Lina Gordyshevskaya
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