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

Postgraduate Course: Modernism and Empire (ENLI11139)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the relationship between European imperialism and literary modernism, focusing primarily on British colonial contexts and legacies (in South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific), but also engaging with other European empires (such as the French Caribbean and the Belgian Congo). We will analyse a range of texts published from the 1890s through to 1960, exploring the centrality of empire to various phases of literary modernism. Both late colonialism and modernism share many of the same structuring discourses, such as concerns over the decline and decay of ¿Western¿ civilization, and a preoccupation with finding new ways of defining human subjectivity and alterity (in the wake of the collapse of enlightenment humanism, and the rise of psychoanalytical and social Darwinist paradigms). We will explore the relationship between anxieties about the imperialist project, and certain stylistic and thematic innovations in modernist literature, including: (i) the preoccupation with Western degeneration (which is interpreted by some modernist writers as a consequence of inter-racial contact and miscegenation, while others hold that Western culture can be revitalised by outside cultural and artistic influences); (ii) a preoccupation with multiple subjectivities and limited/unreliable narrators; (iii) experiments with symbolism and imagism as alternatives to Victorian realism and positivism. We will question the degree to which modernism was complicit with, or opposed to, imperialism, exploring texts produced by British authors (such as George Orwell, Leonard Woolf and Joyce Cary) who participated in the administration of British imperial territories, as well as the work of writers more peripheral to the workings of empire (such as Joseph Conrad, and women writers such as Jean Rhys and Katherine Mansfield). We will also consider how modernism was taken up by writers (such as Mulk Raj Anand and Aimé Césaire) situated at the colonial ¿margins¿, investigating cross-cultural friendships and alliances (such as those between E.M. Forster and Anand, and Ezra Pound and Rabindranath Tagore), as well as counter-discursive interventions by postcolonial writers such as Chinua Achebe, whose novel No Longer at Ease (1960) serves as a riposte to Cary¿s Mister Johnson (1939).
Course description Week 2: Course introduction;
Administration, miscegenation and degeneration: Joseph Conrad, 'An Outpost of Progress' (1897); Rudyard Kipling, 'Regulus' (1917) and 'Kidnapped' (1888); Robert Louis Stevenson, 'The Ebb-Tide' (1894); W. Somerset Maugham, 'Rain' (1921)
Week 3: Ezra Pound and 'The East': Pound's ideogrammatic poetry and the Chinese Cantos; Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali poems (1912)
Week 4: E.M. Forster, A Passage to India (1924)
Week 5: Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (1935)
Week 6: Leonard Woolf, 'Pearls and Swine' (1921) and selected letters; George Orwell, 'Shooting an Elephant' (1936)
Week 7: Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark (1937)
Week 8: Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories.
Week 9: Aimé Césaire, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (1939; using the Bloodaxe translation, Notebook of a Return to my Native Land (1995))
Week 10: Joyce Cary, Mister Johnson (1939) and 'Umaru' (1921)
Week 11: Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease (1960)
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the ways in which empire and its legacies has contributed to certain thematic and stylistic innovations in British (and other) literary modernism(s).
  2. Develop a critical vocabulary for analysing the thematics and aesthetics of modernist writing, drawing upon a range of theory and criticism (including, inter alia, formalist, Marxist, postmodernist and postcolonial perspectives).
  3. Analyse the active contribution of writers and cultures on the colonial 'periphery' to developments in (and critiques of) literary modernism.
  4. Articulate (in written and oral forms) a considered, informed sense of the breadth and range of responses to imperialism in course texts.
  5. Reflect on good learning practice.
Reading List
Primary Texts (compulsory purchase):
Achebe, Chinua, No Longer at Ease (Penguin, 2010, ISBN 0141191554)
Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. (Penguin, 1989, 0140183957)
Cary, Joyce, Mister Johnson (Faber and Faber, 2009, 0571252095)
Césaire, Aimé, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (Bloodaxe, 1995, 1852241845)
Forster, E.M. A Passage to India (Penguin, 1998, 0140274235)
Mansfield, Katherine, Selected Stories (ed. Angela Smith) (Oxford University Press, 2008, 9780199537358).
Pound, Ezra, Selected Poems and Translations (Faber and Faber, 2011, 0571239005)
Rhys, Jean, Voyage in the Dark (Penguin, 2000, 0141183950)
Stevenson, Robert Louis, South Seas Tales (ed. Roslyn Jolly) (Oxford University Press, 2008, 9780199536085.
Tagore, Rabindranath. Gitanjali (Full Circle, 2004, 8176211125)
Woolf, Leonard. Stories of the East. (Long Riders' Guild Press, 2007, 1590482530)
[Other material is available on Learn via e-reserve.]
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements MSc only
Course organiserProf Michelle Keown
Tel: (0131 6)50 6856
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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