ENGL428B - Seminar in Language and Literature; Reading Victorian Literature in the Colonies

The British Empire stretched from Australia and New Zealand to India, South Africa, and Canada, among many other places, but Victorian Literature classes at most universities remain fixated almost exclusively on texts written and published within the British Isles. This course has three main objectives: first, to read from a range of Victorian colonial novels, poems, and essays, thinking comparatively about how different colonial spaces contributed to the emergence of different colonial literary traditions. Second, to examine the reception and circulation of those texts within both colonial spaces and the British Isles themselves. And third, to ask how our understanding of the British cannon shifts when these various colonial literary traditions are taken into account: what happens to “Victorian Literature” when we read it from the perspective of Victorian colonial publications? Because we are limited to just one semester, we will focus on Australia, India, and South Africa, giving five weeks to each colonial space. Texts will include the poetry of Bengali poet Toru Dutt; Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of his Natural Life, a novel about the transportation of convicts to Australia; Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm, a South African feminist novel; Emily Eden’s Up the Country: Letters from India; and Rudyard Kipling’s great Indian novel, Kim.

As this is an Honors course, the classes will be discussion based. Students will be expected to participate enthusiastically in those discussions, and to come to class prepared to share ideas, insights, and questions on the readings. Written assignments will include one 12- to 15-page term paper, developed over the course of the semester, for which students will make use of McKeldin library’s vast digital archive of Victorian colonial materials, including access to nineteenth-century colonial newspapers and journals.


Permission of Honors Director. Junior standing. For ENGL majors only.