Even before the wide-scale consolidation of imperial power during the Victorian Age, the eighteenth century was already an era in which the world being transformed by the massive expansions of global trade networks and the proliferation of scientific voyages. It was an era in which the multiple traumas of the Transatlantic slave trade were forcibly displacing millions of Africans, and the East India Company was beginning to consolidate its political power on the Southeast Asian continent. The vogue for chinoiserie (a style inspired by Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions) and the consumption of opium reached its peak at the end of the century, and travel narratives became the most popular genre of literature next to the novel. On the British Isles, people were flocking to urban centres such as Edinburgh, Dublin and London – the last of which grew to become, by 1800, the largest city within Europe and the third largest city within the wider world. This was an era, moreover, that experienced the social and political upheavals of two major revolutions: the American revolution in 1775, and the French revolution in 1789. The world, it seemed, was undergoing a massive realignment. This course will examine the various ways in which writers and thinkers in Britain during the Romantic period attempted to negotiate this world in transformation – a world in which people from different cultures and lands were being opened to contact and engagement with various forms of difference. Over the course of the semester, students will examine novels, poetry and literary essays that in various ways attempt to imagine new models of community, encounters with difference, and modes of sympathetic engagement and humanitarian obligation engendered by the shifting parameters of the world.
A course reader will be made available on Moodle prior to semester.
- De Quincey, Thomas. Confessions of an English Opium Eater (Penguin Classics)
- Equiano, Oladauh. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings (Penguin Classics)
- Maturin, Charles. Melmoth the Wanderer (Penguin Classics)
- Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818 edn. (Penguin Classics)
- Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (Penguin Classics)