The Rhetoric of Empire

Jul 14

A Multiple-Source Analysis

1100 words, due by midnight on the evening of Sun, Jul 14

What is the rhetoric of Empire? What appeals do we find, expressed or embedded, in the art and literature of the British dominion in India, Egypt, and elsewhere throughout the world in the 19th century? Building a body of evidence from Victorian or Edwardian works that represent or comment on the Empire, write a short comparative essay that identifies the characteristic rhetorical appeals that the British used to justify, celebrate, and (perhaps) critique their worldwide dominion.

Angles to explore (don’t try to cover all of these; choose 1 or 2 that strike you as especially enlightening):

  • Assertions or unspoken assumptions as to the proper aim of the colonial enterprise.
  • Assertions or unspoken assumptions about the national character of Great Britain, perhaps by contrast to other European colonial powers, perhaps by contrast to a colonized people.
  • Metaphors or other language that portrays colonized peoples as anything other than human—as animals, as a flood or earthquake, etc.
  • Who’s the target of the rhetorical appeal? What group(s) are not addressed?

Some possible sources (you need at least five):

  • Kipling from Rhetoric
  • Readings from Social Science
  • Conrad from Humanities
  • Monuments, works of art, and other cultural artifacts that you’ve encountered here in London.

In casting about for sources besides the three mentioned from Hum and Soc Sci, consider:

  • The Albert Memorial in Hyde Park just north of the Crofton.
  • The many paintings, sculptures and decorative objects on display at the V&A museum (also just a short walk from your dorm).
  • Propaganda posters and artifacts on display at the National Army Museum or the Imperial War Museum.

All sources should date to the Victorian (1837-1901) or Edwardian era (1901-1914). You can make a case for including artifacts from WWI or just after, but do so advisedly: commenting on the source as coming in late, but confirming (or complicating) the prior trend.

Source Citation: MLA.

Length: This essay will be scored (√+, √, √-) for length, earning a √+ for coming within 50 words (above or below) the prescribed word count and a √- for being more than 150 words too long or too short. My word count will not include your Name, any Headers or the Works Cited, but will include the essay’s title.

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