HENK00067U  English - Free topic 7: Historical and Literary Approaches to the British Empire

Volume 2018/2019

This course explores the British Empire from two different approaches: historical analysis and literary interpretations. The course is split into two modules complementing each other. The first examines the underlying methods and conceptualizations of ‘empire’ and aims to discuss how it operated as a global system. The second part examines, mainly through literature, the lost voices of imperialism - i.e. those not represented in historical sources, literature etc.


Part I: The British Empire and ‘high imperialism’(Mads Bomholt Nielsen)

The British Empire was the largest empire in human history. Spanning across the globe it was fittingly called ‘the empire upon which the sun never set’. In this part of the course, we will explore the underlying ideologies, dynamics and driving forces of empire from the late nineteenth century to the end of the First World War. By using specific cases as entry points, we will discuss a variety of topics including ‘globalization’, the scramble for Africa and the civilizing mission. Besides seeking to understand the British Empire as a truly global system, this part of the course will also elaborate on the ways in which the British themselves understood their empire. As such, this part of the course offers a historical perspective on how empire not only operated, but also how it was comprehended.


Part II: ‘The Other Voices of Imperialism’(Anne Sophie Taagaard)

This literary course will complement the historical course in the module. That is, where the historic part of this module explores imperialism predominantly from the perspective of the British colonizers, the literary part will examine ’other’ perspectives by focusing on what has been left out of historical representations. Based on literary readings, we will therefore ‘listen’ to the silences and non-language of imperial or colonial representations in order to re-conceptualize our understanding of the over- and under-represented agents of and in history. In other words, we will explore the ‘other’ side of imperialism. To do this, we will re-examine what Marie-Louise Pratt has called the contact zone of imperial or colonial encounters, in which disparate cultures meet in highly asymmetrical relations of power and we will explore the dire consequences of these encounters as well as the possibilities they may generate through the instability and ambivalence inherent in the contact zone. We will take our point of departure in literature from High Imperialism and move onto literature from former colonies.

The British Empire and ‘high imperialism’

Preliminary reading list:  

The course readings will be articles and uploads available in Absalon in January 2019


‘The Other Voices of Imperialism’

Preliminary reading list: 

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

King Solomon’s Mines, H. R. Haggart

David’s Story, Zoë Wicomb

Doctor Wooreddy’s Perscription for Enduring the Ending of the World, Mudrooroo

Complete reading list will be available at Absalon in January 2019.

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
Type of assessment
Portfolio, Portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 12th 2019
Written assignment for course part I (5 pages), weight 1/4. Deadline week 15
Written assignment for course part II (5 pages), weight 1/4. Deadline week 19
Final Written assignment (11-15 pages), weight 1/2. Deadline: to be submitted with final portfolio.
Exam registration requirements
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5