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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ARTF5073M The Origins of Postcolonial England

30 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Catherine Karkov

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module explores England's postcolonial past from the Roman Empire through to the Norman Conquest as it has left its mark on the art, archaeology and texts of the period. It will critique the impact multiple waves of incoming peoples had on the culture and landscape of the island, with a special focus on the North of England as so much of its history survives in the area. It will also examine how England's postcolonial past came to form the basis for its early modern and modern empires.


The medieval itself has been seen as colonial other to the modern, and through examining the postcolonial past through contemporary postcolonial critique the course will help to break down some of the false divisions that separate past from present, the medieval from the modern and postmodern. Readings for most weeks will put primary texts (in translation), secondary scholarship on the period, and theoretical critique into dialogue with each other. Class discussion will consider both the past that emerges from that dialogue, and how it is manifested and memorialised in the art of the period. An optional field trip to Hexham during week 6 (subject to school finances) will help to elucidate the ways in which the past remains present around us.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module students will:
- Be able to critically analyse primary and secondary sources at a higher (post graduate) level. This will help them enrich and develop research methods essential for their written work (both essays on module and dissertation).
- Develop a deeper understanding of key concepts in contemporary critical theory and critical humanities pertinent to the complex notion of the 'post-colonial' with regards the social demographic and culture changes England experienced between the Roman and Norman conquests.
- Through collaborative class discussions and presentations develop verbal fluency in constructing a logical and coherent argument with regards the application of c20th/c21st notions of the 'post-colonial' to Anglo-Saxon art and artefacts.
- Be able to analyse unfamiliar images, texts and objects with regards their changing historical and material status.
- Engage in professionalism in planning, organisation and delivery of final conference.


Week 1: Introduction: Hadrian's Wall
This class will introduce both Roman and the idea of postcolonial Britain. We will discuss key concepts of postcolonial theory and examine how they apply to Roman Britain along, especially in the key border area of Hadrian’s Wall.

Week 2: Angles, Saxons and the Image of Trauma
The 'departure' of the Romans and 'arrival' of the Angles, Saxons, and other peoples from the Continent was a period of intense trauma. What is trauma, and how is it expressed in art? How did different authors portray this period, and why might their views differ?

Week 3: The Anglo-Saxon Wall
Many of the sites along the Roman Wall remained in use, came back into use, or were rebuilt during the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries. This class will consider how this reuse and rebuilding became part of the creation of a new English identity, and how it became an important ideological part of English expansion west and north into British territories.

Week 4: The talking book
Like sculpture and architecture, the book was an important weapon in the expansion of both the Christian church, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and eventually England as a nation. However, books also reveal other types of postcolonial relationships, such as that between languages, or that between humans and the animals from whose skins the books were made. We will discuss these issues, as well as examining the story of one book that became a central English origin myth.

Week 5: The Vikings
This class will focus on the arrival, sometimes violently sometimes not, of different groups of Scandinavian peoples in England. How did books, language and writing in particular become ways of fighting back? How were they used to manipulate communal memory?

Week 6: Optional field trip to Hexham

Week 7: Anglo-Scandinavian England
The north of England in particular became a hybrid Anglo-Scandinavian place during the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries. How did the different peoples who made up this very liquid culture express their own identity, especially in relation to the Anglo-Saxon and Roman past?

Week 8: The Empire of Cnut
This week will focus on the court of King Cnut and his family. Cnut (King of England, Denmark and parts of Norway) and Queen Emma (Norman with a Danish mother, and widow to the last 'Anglo-Saxon' king) are remarkable for the number of images and writings they left behind, as well as marking the end, perhaps, of Anglo-Saxon England.

Week 9: The Norman Conquest
1066 is often used as a definitive break with the past. The English were conquered by the Normans, English as a language all but disappeared amongst the literate, and Anglo-Saxon England was at an end. The picture is, of course, far more complicated than that.

Week 10: England and Empire
Anglo-Saxon England provide many of the myths of origins and ethnic purity that would go on to become part of England's sense of national identity in the centuries that followed. Many were written into the subsequent empires of the modern world. Some persist today

Week 11: Presentations

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours270.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Includes optional Fieldtrip of 12 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through weekly participation in seminars and through the mid-term and the final essays.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,800-3,000 words40.00
Essay3,500-4,000 words60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:33:46


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