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

Undergraduate Course: Women's Writing and Empire, 1770 - 1870 (UG) (ENLI10408)

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 examines the body of literature that emerges from women's involvement in the expansion and consolidation of the British Empire, an involvement that was both imaginative and literal. It will explore contemporary representations of, and responses to, settler colonialism in writing by women across many different genres, from novels and poetry to letters, guidebooks and travel narratives. The course will encourage students to consider questions of canonicity and the exclusions and blind spots of traditional national literary histories, to pay attention to the intersections (or clashes) of gender, race and national and regional identities and to address the ways in which imperialism shapes the British literary sphere in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Course description The period between 1770 and 1870 saw a boom in emigration to settler colonies which led to unprecedented mobility for British women in all walks of life, who found themselves cast as the foot soldiers of the empire's civilising mission, responsible for transplanting and propagating British values in new colonial spaces. In this course we will look at how women wrote about these experiences and how their writings grapple with, or evade, the tensions and contradictions inherent in their situation. Producing settler narratives, travel journals or fiction with colonial settings provided women with new opportunities for publication and self-expression at the same time as these texts record their authors' participation in the violent British imperial project. We will also read texts by Indigenous and formerly enslaved women, whose writings attempt to carve out a space for very different gendered experiences of imperialism. We will read writing in a wide range of genres, including letters, guidebooks, travel narratives, autobiography, poetry, periodicals and novels, building a critical vocabulary with which to make comparisons and connections between canonical and more obscure, seemingly less 'literary' texts.

Topics to be covered in seminars may include: Gothic and sentimental fiction's engagement with imperial discourse; female travellers; North American Indigenous women's writing; slavery and abolitionism; settler narratives; letters and poetry composed on board emigrant ships; the cultural memory of the Highland Clearances; the historical novel's transplantation to colonial spaces; modern fictional attempts to reckon with imperial history.

The course is assessed by two pieces of written work: one essay to be completed during term-time and one to be written during the exam period.┬┐Preparation for seminars will take the form of a combination of autonomous learning group tasks and individual blog entries, in alternating weeks. The blog entries will be a source of formative feedback and material explored in these short (c.250 word) unassessed pieces can be developed and expanded upon in either of the summative essays. Seminars themselves will involve short introductory lectures which can readily be adapted for hybrid delivery, as well as group discussion and reporting back on preparatory individual/ALG work.┬┐

A key aim of this course is to encourage students to consider how examining lesser-known texts, or placing familiar ones in new combinations or contexts, alters their understanding of both women's writing and British literature between 1770 and 1870, so in their assessed work they will be encouraged to introduce texts from the 'recommended' list or from their own independent reading alongside those discussed in seminars.
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) AND Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct clear, original arguments about the ways in which literature by women engages with and intervenes in the ongoing processes of imperial expansion and settler colonialism.
  2. Analyse literary texts using recognised methods of literary criticism to substantiate and illustrate those arguments.
  3. Evaluate and assess ideas from a variety of literary and historical sources in order to bring them to bear on their analyses of the intersections of gender, race and national identity in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature.
  4. Apply close reading skills to a wide range of genres and literary forms, including letters, guidebooks, travel narratives, autobiography, poetry, periodicals and novels, in order to draw conclusions about the functions and capacities of these forms.
Reading List

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847)

Anon., The Woman of Colour: A Tale (1808)

Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality (1774-6)

Anna Jameson, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838)

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (Bamewawagezhikaquay), The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky (2007)

Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself (1831)

Susanna Moodie, Roughing it in the Bush (1852)

Catherine Parr Traill, The Backwoods of Canada (1836)

Mary Anne Barker, Station Life in New Zealand (1870)

Christian Isobel Johnstone, Clan-Albin (1815)

Margaret Laurence, The Diviners (1974)


Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

Charlotte Smith, 'The Story of Henrietta', Letters of a Solitary Wanderer (1800)

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake): Collected Poems and Selected Prose (2005)

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love (2013)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary, A Plea for Emigration; or Notes of Canada West, in Its Moral, Social and Political Aspect: with Suggestions respecting Mexico, West Indies and Vancouver's Island for the Information of Colored Emigrants (1852)

Thomas Pringle, African Sketches (1834)

Alice Munro, 'A Wilderness Station', Open Secrets (1994)

Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970)

Walter Scott, Waverley (1814)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge of the fields of settler colonial studies and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women's writing, as well as their critical understanding of the implications of the intersection of these fields and of how a range of the principal concepts of literary analysis may be applied to the course material.

Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material.

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.

Communication: through participating in these 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.
Course organiserDr Honor Rieley
Course secretaryMs June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620
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