This course examines the structures of British imperialism as they are reflected in literature, science, and technology. The premise for our examination, however, is that such structures were not necessarily European in origin. Resisting the self-image of the "Enlightenment" as it was developed in 17th- and 18th-century Europe (and as it has been extended in academic and cultural work since), we will investigate how "Enlightenment" values and socio-political norms prized by modernity may also have roots in cultures and geographies other than Europe. Our focus will be on the critical encounters between England and Asia (although we will be considering New World encounters as well), particularly India, with an eye to deconstructing legacies of Eurocentrism.
Readings include Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, New Voyage Around the World, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, the poetry of Alexander Pope, Jane Austen’s Emma, the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, excerpts from 17th- and 18th-century correspondence of the British East India Company correspondence and selections from the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions. We will also be looking at the critical work of Giogio Agamben, Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Thomas Kuhn, and Michel Foucault in order to construct some paradigms with which to work, and historians Ruchard Grove, Andre Gunder Frank, and Jonathan Spence. Ultimately, we will consider the implications of these histories in relation to our own understanding of imperial identity and the assumptions about legacies of power in the global marketplace.