English R1B

Reading and Composition: Cannibals, Collectors, Chroniclers: Fictions of Empire

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Fall 2020 Struhl, Abigail
MWF 12-1

Book List

Behn, Aphra: Oroonoko; Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe; Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano; Melville, Herman: Benito Cereno; Poe, Edgar Allen: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket; Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea

Other Readings and Media

Secondary sources will be made available via bCourses, and there will also be a screening of a film, TBD. 


This class will focus on Anglo-American representations of colonial encounter from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a period of dramatic imperial expansion. What are the conventions of fictions of empire? How are figures like cannibals and collectors repeatedly deployed to express anxieties about cultural, racial, and sexual difference, and how do cannibalism and collecting serve as narrative methods as well as tropes? Why do British and American fictions represent going elsewhere to cast new light on the social problems they face at home? And how do contemporary fiction-makers find inspiration in returning to and rewriting the colonial archive?

The goal of this course is to provide instruction in the art of the research essay. Our imperial fictions will provide both material for a longer piece of writing and the opportunity to think about how writers establish their authority using (sometimes manipulating or innovating upon) historical evidence and literary convention.

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