English, 2013 curriculum - Free topic 13: Memories of Empire

Course content

The decolonisation of the British Empire has often been studied through public archives and the papers of political actors. However, studying the end of empire through memory and life writing may offer access to a more intimate level of experience. In this course, we will study how individuals have responded to and articulated decolonisation in their autobiographies, memoirs, letters and public speeches.

A particular focus will be on memory: how reliable are these sources? What can they tell us about the imperial past and the postcolonial context of writing? How do the memories of individuals relate to the way societies commemorate the empire? What is the moral economy of traumatic memories? We will consider the importance of the context and get a sense of the differing memories and experiences of decolonisation in various parts of the former empire, including the Caribbean and Africa, and the former imperial metropolis.

We will investigate the texts as at once literary texts with aesthetic qualities and historical sources that reveal much about their postcolonial time of writing and consider how memory and life-stories are often harnessed to a project of personal and political positioning.

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

You must purchase the following two books – available in the university bookstore:

  • Alexandra Fuller, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs
  • Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands
  • Other readings are available on Absalon – see course room under “Files”.

To give students a working knowledge of memory theory relating to individual and collective memory and how it may be applied to postcolonial life writing; to give students the tools to study life writing as historical sources; to familiarise students with British decolonisation and the individual and collective narratives in its wake; to hone skills in analysis of texts and presentation of academic arguments.

Each session introduces a historical context or theoretical concept and then proceeds to examine case-studies through that lens. The areas under scrutiny will primarily be: the Caribbean, Africa and the United Kingdom.

By critical analysis of relevant sources such as autobiographies and memoirs (sometimes extracts) and other types of documents; by student and tutor presentations of contexts and concepts; by group and class discussions.

Memories of Empire will be taught in weeks 44-50, four hours/week.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 176,75
  • English
  • 204,75