The "End of Empire": Post-Imperial Writing in Britain - ENGL7260

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 6 30 (15) Matthew Whittle checkmark-circle


"The empires of our time were short-lived, but they have altered the world forever; their passing away is their least significant feature" (V.S. Naipaul).

British colonialism changed the world, but it also changed Britain. Since the period known as the 'end of empire' in the 1950s and 60s, Britain has grappled with its loss of imperial power, a loss that has informed contemporary debates about immigration, multiculturalism, and nationalism. This module explores how writers have represented the consequences of imperial decline for British society and culture. Beginning in the midst of the 'end of empire' and ending in the world in which we find ourselves today, we'll explore how some of the core concerns of contemporary Britain are best understood in terms of post-imperiality. These concerns include racism towards migrants and refugees, nostalgia for a romanticised imperial past, and the re-emergence of colonial discourse in debates about the ‘War on Terror’. Alongside these, we'll discover how literature can enable an investment in new forms of community and identity. Many of the writers on this module bring the category of ‘British’ into crisis, and in doing so, enunciate new forms of commonality that actively reject the harmful and exclusionary imperial myths about racial and cultural difference.


Contact hours

Contact Hours: 30
Private Study Hours: 270
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

90% Coursework: two 3,000 word essays at 45% each
10% seminar contribution

Reassessment methods:
Failed components will be reassessed on a like-for-like basis

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture (2004)
V.S. Naipaul, The Mimic Men (1967)
Grace Nichols I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems (1984-2006)
Irvine Welsh (1993), Trainspotting
Bernadine Evaristo (2009), Lara
Julian Barnes (1998), England, England
Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea (2001)
Eavan Boland, New Selected Poems (2013).
Caryl Phillips (2003), A Distant Shore
Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire (2017)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Identify the key concerns that intersect studies of contemporary British and postcolonial writing, such as national belonging, race, gender and neoliberalism;
2 Understand the different cultural and historical contexts of post-imperial literatures;
3 Interpret a range of formal and aesthetic features relating to the study of poetry and prose;
4 Apply theoretical concepts (such as postcolonialism, postmodernism and feminism) to their reading and analysis.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Construct lucid arguments that draw on a balanced attention to a range of primary and secondary sources;
2 Deploy sophisticated close reading skills to allow for complex comparative analyses of literary forms;
3 Demonstrate the communication skills needed to lead and contribute to group discussions;
4 Conduct self-directed research and the ability to extend discussions undertaken in lectures and seminars through reference to appropriate scholarly sources;
5 Interrogate a variety of critical positions, including a precise understanding of relevant theoretical material.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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