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level5

5ABA0002 Ideas of Nation

Credit value: 15
Module convenor: Professor Javed Majeed
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour unseen exam (100%); coursework reassessment in exam period 3

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt, except in Period 3 where the exam will be replaced by an essay/essays on a subject defined by the convenor. 

Teaching pattern: 1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar weekly
Pre-requisites: None

Module aims

This module will compare literature identified with a number of ‘nations.’ It will explore the ideas of the nation that inhere in each of the primary texts via close analysis of the stories they tell, their narrative styles, the characters they depict, their genres, and their place in literary criticism. The module will develop comparative methodologies for gaining insight into the histories and theories of the nation, facilitating engagement with the work of key theorists of the nation, nationalism, and of ‘national’ literature.

Module description

Do you ‘belong’ to a nation? Perhaps more than one? Where do you think ‘your’ nation is? Is it tucked inside ‘borders’? Or do you carry it around inside you? Would you be willing to die for it? Why? Or why not?

If nations are so ‘diverse’, why are they all still called ‘nations’? What is a nation? Is it a ‘good’ thing?

Where do nations come from? What came ‘before’ them? Do they mark the ‘end’ of colonial eras? Or are they products of empire?

What do stories have to do with ‘nations’? And why is literature so regularly studied within national frameworks (‘Indian’ literature, ‘Italian’ literature, ‘English’ literature)?

What is happening and will happen to ‘nations’ in an era of ‘globalisation’? What is globalisation doing to the study of literature?

This module will explore these questions and more by comparing twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature identified with a number of ‘nations’.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will have:

  • Acquired a sound grounding in key themes, issues, comparisons and debates in the literary representations of nationhood.
  • Acquired sophisticated interdisciplinary skills on how nations are represented, narrated, and ethnographically produced in different kinds of texts, cultural productions and artefacts.
  • Developed a critical awareness of the limits and problems of nationality in relation to other forms of belonging.
  • Developed an understanding of both the liberating and oppressive potential of nationhood.

Core reading

  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism [1983]; second edition London: Verso, 2006.
  • Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, eds., Race, nation, class: Ambiguous identities, transl. Chris Turner, London: Verso, 1991.
  • Homi Bhabha, ed., Nation and Narration, London: Routledge, 1991.
  • Frederic Jameson, ‘Third-world literature in the era of multinational capitalism’, Social Text, 15 (Autumn 1986), pp. 65-88.

Additional Course Costs

Students may wish to purchase key texts; where possible material will be put up on KEATS.

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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