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Research into nationalism has focused primarily on the emergence of twentieth-century nation-states out of the wreckage of nineteenth-century European colonialism. Central to much thinking on nations is Benedict Anderson’s identification of nations as “imagined communities,” not always co-equal with the physical geography of the modern nation. While Anderson is primarily concerned with how the colonial state imagines the “other,” the institutions of power he identifies were first used not on the peripheries of empire but at its center. The first object of national self-definition was not “them,” but “us,” the citizens, land, culture, and history of the British “nation.”

In this course we will read theorists and historians on the nation, nationalism, and national identity, and focus our examination on texts produced in the last few decades of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth-century. The reading will draw on a variety of genres and will focus on works by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Barbauld, Austen, Cowley, Inchbald, and Dickens. Requirements of the course include a seminar presentation, short weekly response papers, class participation, and a seminar paper.

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Last Update: 12/1/2009