#inclasstoday : Literature of the British Empire

Today in Dr Peter Naccarato’s (#departmentchair) class, EWL 215, there will be a student presentation on the assigned chapter from Anthony Trollope’s book Australia, a first person narrative documenting colonial exploits in Australia.

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The account is rife with racist tropes and justifications that were common at the time. In today’s chapter the narrator speaks about the “problem” of the aborigines (the indigenous people of Australia) and the British colonists’ “duty” to civilize them as much as possible (acknowledging the “natural” limits on how much a black man can be civilized). Students encounter firsthand the racist discourse that informed and was used to justify Britain’s colonial ambitions.

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P Nac explains: “The overall goal of the course is to see how literature was used to both promote and challenge the ideology of Empire. Today’s readings show how British writers promoted ideas that supported/justified the colonial project, like those reflected in Trollope’s racist arguments in support of oppressing the indigenous people of Australia.”

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We often think of writers and artists as rebels, creating and speaking out against the status quo. It’s important to remember that there are always ways that art, literature and news are co-opted by those in power, to undermine the masses and uphold their own status. And those who write or direct or dance/sculpt/paint are not immune to the ideologies of their time. Some don’t seek justice before beauty or profit, and some don’t think beyond what they were taught about how the world works. Nowadays we can sometimes take for granted that #thepersonalispolitical, but this hasn’t historically always been the case. Hell, it isn’t always the case currently #yikes. Question all sources, observe all points of privilege, and read carefully. #eyesup

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Readings listed below. Have a great day in class today, and remember to be kind to yourself and be kind to strangers #bekindrewind

Today’s readings:

·   George Otto Tevelyan, “An Indian Railway” and “The Gulf Between Us” from The Competition Wallah (3-15)

·   John Ruskin, “Conclusion to Inaugural Address” (16-20)

·   Anthony Trollope, “Aboriginals” (20-32)

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