Course Description: After almost a century of global economic and then military dominance by the United States
(soon to be superseded by China, India et al?), it may be hard to remember that only a little
over a hundred years ago, a small island nation on the periphery of Europe “ruled” over 1/5
of the world’s population, possessed the largest and most modern navy on the globe, and still
served as the economic epicenter of the western world (though even then rapidly losing that positon
to the U.S. and Germany), as it had ever since theIndustrial Revolution started there nearly two centuries before.
Onthe heels of Great Britain’s rise to world power status came the English language itself and
British culture more generally, so that even today students read Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens
in places as wide apart as Adelaide, Australia, Norman, Oklahoma and in fact across Europe as well.
Meanwhile, the influence of all things British, from the monarchy to the Beatles to Arsenal,has continued
well beyond the end of the British empire itself, down to the present day. And though Great Britain
now wrestles with many of the same issues facing all the “mature” western democracies, from deindustrialization
to the challenges of transforming itself into a multi-cultural society and now trying to manage the aftermath of Brexit,
it does so against a unique backdrop of great historic depth and complexity.
Course Goals: Using a combination of textual and audio-visual (music, film, art, architecture, material culture) sources,
lecture and discussion (depending on class size), this class will explore the socio-cultural, economic, political
and other “contexts” of modern and historic Britain. In the process, students will not only develop a greater
understanding of British culture and heritage (useful in and of itself for both translation and intercultural understanding)
but also the richness of the English language as utilized by some of its best practitioners.