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First-Year Research Seminar: Literatures of Imperialism

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number FIRST-UG795
Section 001
Instructor Michelle Lee
Days MW
Time 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


Cultural and literary critic Edward Said has boldly declared: “Without empire, there is no European novel as we know it…” ( Culture and Imperialism,  p. 69). Guided by Said’s assertion, this course will examine how empire was represented in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and non-European literature. We will consider how nineteenth-century literature made visible the purposes, contradictions and anxieties of British and French empire building. In particular, students will attend to the impact of colonial expansion on narrative form, historical consciousness and stylistic choice. While our literary texts will mainly come from Britain and France, we will be examining the meaning of imperialism as a global institution. Central to our considerations will also be an investigation on how the cultures of empire shaped different aspects of metropolitan cultures—from everyday life to social values. We will read novels, critical texts, poetry and travel writing by Edward Said, Jane Austen, Charles Baudelaire and Joseph Conrad as well as a novel written by Assia Djebar who “writes back” to the Empire. Students in this class will write two shorter close-reading essays and develop a longer research paper in which they formulate and answer an original research question related to a specific aspect of one of the literary or theoretical debates studied in the seminar.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)