Raw Material: Literature, Empire, Commodities ENGLIT4130

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course explores the relationship between literature and the material operations of Empire by tracing the production and circulation of different commodities as they appear in colonial and postcolonial literary texts, from the nineteenth century, to the present day. Students will examine literary representations of a range of commodities, including foodstuffs, industrial crops, stimulants, textiles, minerals and fuel, reading these items in their specific geo-political contexts and engaging with their attendant histories of human exploitation and environmental degradation. Students will also engage critically with Glasgow's participation in colonial commodity networks via planned research trips.


8 x 2hr seminars over ten weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

2 x 2hr workshops as scheduled on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours English Literature, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Mid-term annotated bibliography (1500 words): 25%

Seminar contribution: 10%

Seminar presentation of 7 minutes: 15%


a) Time-limited essay (2500 words) to be completed over a 4-day period: 50%


b) Essay (3000 words): 50%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ explore the ways in which commodities and commodity networks shape both the form and content of colonial and postcolonial literatures

■ examine how nineteenth century class-, race-, and gender-based concepts of morality, civility, etiquette, and superiority were defined by access to and use of commodities obtained from colonial peripheries

■ introduce students to new approaches in postcolonial studies, world-literary studies, and environmental criticism

■ interrogate Glasgow's connections to its colonial past through a planned museum/archival visit 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ reflect critically on the imperial extraction of commodities from colonial and formerly colonial spaces and how these commodity networks have shaped Anglo identity, literature, and culture

■ explain and employ advanced critical approaches to the study of colonial and postcolonial literatures (including new approaches from the environmental humanities, world-systems theory, cultural anthropology, and development economics).

■ Critically assess how museums preserve and produce colonial stereotypes and learn to interrogate Glasgow's colonial legacies

■ analyse the ethical, social, and global responsibilities of the West in light of colonialism's histories of exploitation and violence

■ produce an original research essay using professional standards of referencing and presentation

■ deal with changes and new challenges by applying their disciplinary skills and knowledge to previously unfamiliar research areas and questions.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.