ENGL 332
Colonial Subjects Fall 2009
Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

For almost 150 years–from the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries–dramatizations of Aphra Behn’s Oronooko, the fictional account of a slave revolt in Surinam, were among the most popular offerings on the London stage; by the late 18th century the title role was commonly played by black actors, some of whom had themselves been slaves, and whose other roles would have ranged from Othello to the villainous “Obi, or Three-Fingered Jack.” The same period saw the consolidation of modern botanical and zoological classificatory systems, the emergence of the social sciences (political economy, anthropology, sociology), and the birth of the modern museum. What these phenomena have in common are a complex relation to British colonial expansion and imperial rule, which produced not just the subjection of non-British people, but also, new “subjects” of representation and knowledge. This course will examine a rich array of texts and visual materials that suggest the disruptive and transformative effects Britain’s imperial projects had on ways of seeing and knowing, both within and outside the metropolis. Materials will include Behn’s Oroonoko and 18th and 19th century London stage adaptations of the novel, along with a modern adaptation by Nigerian writer Biyi Bandele (performed for a London audience in 1999); travel narratives, including the journals and anthropological, botanical, and zoological images from the voyages of Thomas Cook; poetry of Phyllis Wheatley, William Blake, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; autobiographies and polemics by James Gronniosaw, Ottobah Cuguano, and Olaudah Equiano; Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Derek Walcott’s Pantomime. We will also read critical and theoretical material on colonialism and empire. This course is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative; it investigates how attention to the context of colonial power relations reconfigures our understanding of disciplinary knowledge.
The Class: Format: discussion/seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 1689
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: attendance, active participation, frequent short blackboard respounses to the critical essays, and two 6- to 8-page formal essays
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: English majors
Distributions: Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
INST Borders, Exiles + Diaspora Studies Electives

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