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The Global Eighteenth Century


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: a 1000-word critical commentary (10%) and two 2500-word essays (45% each)

Module description

The eighteenth century witnessed expanding empires, transoceanic travel, colonial encounters, revolutions, rebellions, wars, the rise of the modern nation state and nascent globalisation. In this module we address the issues of equality, identity and humanity that became so significant during this period, paying attention to the contested grounds of race, nationhood and religion.

Using the literature of travel and empire as our point of focus, as well as materials dealing with the emergence of modern forms of national consciousness, we will read epistolary discourse, fiction, poetry and travel writing by Jane Austen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Wortley Montagu, Laurence Sterne, Jonathan Swift, William Wordsworth and others. We will consider these texts in terms of cultural transformation and change brought about by national and international intercultural encounters, asking what our readings reveal about the impact of empire on the literary imagination.

Indicative syllabus

  • Colonial discovery
  • Writing intercultural encounter
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Slavery and abolition
  • Nationalism in a 'world system'
  • Romanticism and the Atlantic world


  • Anonymous, Hamel, the Obeah Man
  • Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, The African
  • Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • developed knowledge of British and Anglophone literature of the long eighteenth century within the context of cultural change associated with international travel and colonialism
  • engaged with the history of international and colonial cultural exchange and its literary dimensions
  • considered various critical approaches to literature of the period that account for cultural shifts in ideas about gender, nationhood and race.