This seminar will, as its title indicates, shed light on the constructions and deconstructions of the Victorians’ understandings and practices of empire. It focuses on nineteenth-century fiction, yet also with a view to the era’s wider cultural production, including visual and, if to a smaller degree, performative arts. This seminar will thus cover a variety of genres and media, ranging from colonial photography to sensation fiction, with a definite reading list to be distributed after the end of the registration period.
Since ”the ideologies of racism and imperialism were powerfully symbiotic and often indistinguishable from each other” (Brantlinger 2011, 6), Victorian constructions of race, the impact of Darwinist thought, and the empire’s continued reliance on and legitimization of forced labour are of central concern here. These questions cannot be separated from their gendered dimensions where as ”‘black’ (racialized and sexualized) women were indispensable to the construction of Englishness as a form of ‘white’ male subjectivity” (Brody 1998, 7). To tackle these issues, this seminar will engage with cornerstones of empire historiography, e.g. the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and its representations, and other cultural formations, e.g. the evolution of a distinctly British minstrelsy, to name but a few.
Regarding further skills to be acquired, the seminar will focus on researching novels and periodicals through digitized archives and collections, enabling students to do their own archival research.