This course looks at textual and pictorial representations of Britain’s contacts with her various colonies, in particular India, Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia/Pacific region, including Hong Kong. The focus is on the nineteenth century and the period known as the “New Imperialism,” although earlier and later texts are considered. Students are thus invited to learn about, and reflect critically upon, a particular period in history – which is also their own – by approaching it through historical texts and the creative arts.

The course is structured along the theme of the “reality” versus “representations” of the British Empire. Within the Common Core Curriculum, it invites students to tackle a set of unfamiliar questions, texts, and thoughts, and approach these academically. Within the Humanities Area of Inquiry, the course will show students that the human experience and human representation of reality might be very different from the “truth,” and that knowledge and experience are always contextual.



Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the key features of the historical project, trajectory, and history of the British Empire.
  2. Be able to describe and critically examine a variety of representations of Empire in text and image with appropriate critical frameworks.
  3. Be able to explain, explore, and appreciate the form and function of historical texts, the novel, poetry, travel writing, painting, sketch, and cartoon.
  4. Be able to practice close reading strategies, analysis, discussion, and argument.
  5. Be able to use critical approaches to various genres of text and image, including genre and gender discourse, colonial discourse analysis, and postcolonial theory.




There will be three contact hours per week: in addition to the two-hour lecture on Wednesdays students must sign up for one of the tutorial groups.

Tutorial slots are given away on a first-come, first-served basis, and the number of places is limited. Hence students are encouraged to sign up for a tutorial group in Week 1. Students who intend to take this course are therefore advised to arrange their timetable accordingly.

These lecture and tutorial sessions comprise formal lectures and group work, and students will also be expected to perform research tasks, individually and co-operatively. There will also be an interactive Moodle forum where students can share their views and questions with each other and with their teacher and tutor.




Assessment is by 100% coursework, consisting of:
* Tutorial writing or research exercises/ quizzes/ workshop reports (20%)
* Written assignment/ portfolio/ term paper (max. 1500 words) (35%)
* Tutorial, workshop and class participation, and contributions to the discussion forum on Moodle (10%)
* Two-hour in-class writing exercise (35%)




1) Students are required to obtain the following text by purchase, borrowing, or internet download/photocopy:

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

This is a novella (longer than a short story, shorter than a novel). Suggested for purchase are the World’s Classics Series text (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) or the Penguin Classics text (London: Penguin, 1995), which contain good introductions and notes. Some copies will be available for purchase from the University bookshop. For students who do not want to buy the text, the text can also be downloaded (and printed) at the following sites (among many others):

The University Library contains a number of copies of the novella as well, which students may borrow.

2) Students are also required to download compulsory reading materials. You are asked to read ahead for each week so you can contribute to class discussion.

Please note that the reading is appropriate for a 6-credit Common Core course in the Humanities, containing one novella (90 pages), 3 short poems (3 pages), one illustrated travelogue (20 pages), 4 paintings, 2 historical texts (50 pages), 4 critical essays/extracts from critical writing (approx. 30 pages).

Recommended Reading
An annotated bibliography of secondary readings and recommended readings will be provided to students at a later stage (published on Moodle).

Recommended Websites
Students should at regularly consult the Victorian Web and the Postcolonial web: and

See also




Last updated: 30 August 2018