Study Abroad and Exchanges



SEL3390 : A New Empire: Fiction and the Rise of Global Capitalism

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The module aims to introduce students to a range of writing on Empire in a way which:

1. Investigates the relationship between Empire and literature from after the Second World War to the contemporary moment;

2. Explores Empire in its various territorial, ideological and psychological forms;

3. Evaluates the relationship between Empire and culture;

4. Situates writing on Empire within its socio-historical and ideological contexts;

5. Encourages a theoretical approach to the cultural output of the period.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module examines the concept of Empire and points of intersection between ideology, power and violence in Anglophone literature produced from the second half of the twentieth century to the contemporary moment. These three critical concerns (ideology, power and violence) underpin the module and structure the reading syllabus, with the seminar reading being clustered around each of the terms.

The module will begin by tracing the historical roots of Empire, outlining it as a concept from its origins in classical antiquity to the height of the nineteenth-century European colonial endeavour, by way of laying the ground for the latest formulation of Empire as a post-millenial global capitalist phenomenon. We will consider how, post-1945, Empire no longer denotes the colonisation of nations and territories but, following the psychoanalytic work of Sigmund Freud, begins to operate more subtly by shifting from exterior to interior and from physical to invisible landscapes. Through the reading on the module, we examine how the logic of Empire becomes internalised within the mindset of those who live under its rule and we will investigate whether it is possible to live beyond its ideological reach. We will ask who benefits from Empire, and who suffers under it.

Primary texts may include Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays (1970), J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace (1999), Jhumpa Lahiri The Namesake (2003), Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's Americanah (2012).

This module will be underpinned by the work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri and we will read short extracts from their seminal study of late capitalism, Empire (2000) as well as Arundhati Roy's An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire (1998), alongside other short theoretical work concerned with the mapping of the intersection between culture, ideological and financial systems and Empire. We will also read the work of Nancy Fraser, Judith Butler, Frantz Fanon, Sigmund Freud, R.D. Laing, bell hooks, Edward Said, Fredric Jameson, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Louis Althusser and Slavoj Žižek.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study132:0032:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will introduce the key concepts and terminology of the module. The lectures will perform the role of being a 'reading' of the relevant material in line with central theoretical concerns of the module, while simultaneously providing socio-historical context. This will provide those undertaking the course with a weekly template on possible ways to frame their writing in preparation for assessment.

The module will be underpinned by the work of several key thinkers who write on the historical development of Empire. We will spend the first part of the two-hour seminar discussing set secondary material and how it relates both to the relevant text, but also to the themes of the entire module. This will provide an opportunity to fully interrogate the secondary material and to further develop a theoretical language relevant for assessment.

Student-led study groups will be used to allow further discussion and research of the ideas governing the module. Groups will be assigned a relevant topic to discuss and research, individuals will then be asked to provide a short summary of the work undertaken to the rest of the class. This will provide both a springboard to discussion but also a further opportunity to become familiarised with the concepts and terminology required for assessment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M401800 words
Essay1A602200 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The in-course assessment will ask students to concentrate on one particular text studied in the first half of the module and will be focused on close reading.

The end-of-module assessment will ask students to write a comparative essay comparing two different texts.

Offering a mix of modes of assessments (close reading, comparative/contextual analysis and a reading of a single text) and ensuring good coverage of the texts on the module, the assessment will focus students upon detailed aspects of the material in terms that connect their ideas with the module’s broader thematic content.

Reading Lists