After almost a century of global economic and then military dominance by the United States (soon to be superseded by China, India et al?), it may be hard to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 the Industrial Revolution started there nearly two centuries before.
On the 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
(with the Winston-Churchill-wannabe Boris Johnson ostensibly at the “helm” of state) 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.