SAS Honors Program

Will count towards SAS - English major and minor.

This seminar will explore the profound impact the British Empire had on the nation’s culture during the period when the Empire, at its peak, occupied one quarter of the surface of the globe. Defining “culture” broadly—as literature, primarily, but also as painting and sculpture, anthropology, ethnography, evolutionary theory, historiography, “popular” culture, and even “scientific culture”—we will explore the basic question: what are the cultural roots of imperialism? Any strong critique of imperialism must be able to say whether nations create empires solely for profit and power, or whether cultural attitudes play a major role. In other words, is imperialism primarily the product of capitalism, or of culture? During this period, most works of British fiction as well as writing within a broad range of other cultural areas were preoccupied with questions about the Empire's viability, its moral justifications, its mixing of white and non-white peoples, its potential sexual enticements and dangers, and its role in shaping the desires and social values of ordinary British citizens. A broad approach to British imperial culture can tell us a great deal about how the Empire was entwined with every aspect of British self-consciousness—even among those who never left their homes in England—and about how culture either abetted or restrained imperial expansion. It can also tell us a great deal about our own experience today, as citizens of what is the dominant imperial culture in the world.

We’ll read novels, short stories, and a few non-fictional works by Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, H. Rider Haggard, Olive Schreiner, Robert Louis Stevenson, and E. M. Forster. In addition, we’ll read works by Charles Darwin on evolutionary theory and Benjamin Kidd on “social Darwinism”; nineteenth-century historians of empire; George Stocking on Victorian anthropology and ethnography; Joseph Bristow on working-class or “popular” culture, Ronald Hyam on the empire’s “sexual politics,” as well as a recent historical analysis of the empire. Two films—Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and John Huston’s The Man Who Would be King—to explore what happens when imperial culture makes its way into cinema; and we’ll take a look at how the Empire was represented in painting and public statuary.

One short and one long paper, both of which will require independent research and reading , as well as two substantial book reports on outside readings.

JOHN KUCICH is the author of four books on Victorian literature and culture. He has written dozens of articles on Victorian literature/culture, which have appeared in the top journals in his field as well as in the most eminent journals in literary studies. He serves on the advisory boards of several top journals in his field, and has served on the Editorial Board of PMLA. He has won major fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center. His areas of expertise include Victorian studies, empire studies, narrative theory, psychoanalysis, and multi-media heritage adaptation.


Nelson Biological Labs
Room A-110
P 848-445-3912


Milledoler Hall
Room 12
P 848-932-1406


Ruth Adams Building
Suite 108 
P 848-932-2011


Lucy Stone Hall
Room A-201
P 848-445-3206


100 Rockafeller Rd
Rm. 1031
P 848-445-3206

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