“For Empire is no more, and now the Lion and the Wolf shall cease.”
When William Blake published this rather cryptic sentence as part of his America: A Prophecy (1793), he was already treading new ground in regards to how the British colonies – the American among them – had till then been represented in both written and graphic forms of public discourse on the British mainland. A clear attempt to sympathize with the oppressed colonized and to turn the tables of authoritative telling can be read in Blake’s radical revision of the representation of alterity. This seminar will engage with the literary and critical consequences such a break with British colonial culture brought about. It will look at a wide array of primary sources spanning over five centuries of Britain’s engagement with “the Americas”. Selected passages from Shakespeare’s Tempest (1611), Blake’s America (1793), Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814), Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847), its twentieth-century alternative account Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), and Jenny Diski’s autobiographical travel narrative Stranger on a Train (2002) will be the protagonists in this class. On a meta-level of criticism recourse will be had to representative exponents of postcolonial theory and psycho-geography so as to best approach the primary texts in their ideological and historical heterogeneity.