Raw Material: Literature, Empires, Commodities (PGT) ENGLIT5126

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • 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

1 x 2hr walking tour of Kelvingrove Park, as scheduled on MyCampus

1 x 2hr museum visit to Hunterian Museum, as scheduled on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses

ENGLIT 4130: Raw Material: Literature, Empires, Commodities (UG)




7-minute oral presentation: 10%

Close reading exercise (1000 words): 20%

Essay (3500 words): 70%

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ interrogate how the imperialist exploitation of raw materials and commodities from colonial peripheries has given birth to the civilisational concepts of culture, etiquette, racial superiority, and imperialism in Britain

■ explore how commodity exploitation and resource struggle have continued in the postcolonial world, resulting in environmental and cultural conflicts between vested groups nationally and internationally

■ investigate Glasgow's connections to its colonial past through a planned museum visit and walking tour

■ deploy a variety of interdisciplinary methodologies and approaches from literary theory, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, history, and environmental humanities to contextualise the topic

■ enable students to critically think about commodities around us, and their historical legacy and cultural presence in our everyday life

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ conceptualise critically how resource extraction and commodity circulation from the periphery to the metropole and vice versa have shaped imperial and postcolonial societies and cultures

■ explain, employ, and analyse advanced critical approaches to the study of colonial and postcolonial literatures (including new approaches from the environmental humanities, world-systems theory, postcolonial ecology, cultural anthropology, object theory, and development economics) through oral and written assessment

■ synthesise, summarize, and analyse practical and contemporary knowledge of Glasgow's colonial legacies through oral and written assessment

■ produce an independently researched essay using scholarly standards of referencing appropriate to level, and develop appropriate methodologies to address topics relating to race, class, capitalism, urbanity, public culture and decolonisation, thereby enhancing employability opportunities in academia and cognate sectors

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.