E 392M • LITERATURE OF MARITIME EMPIRE
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
Late in the seventeenth century, the English became eminent players in a global expansion of European trade and rule. They forged new seafaring technologies, new forms of social organization, and new ways of representing the self's relationship to the world. By 1815, Britain's naval and commercial prowess had made it, in Paul Kennedy's term, the "world hegemon"--challenged only by the nascent nautical strength of the United States. But nineteenth century imperialism would mainly involve more terrestrial ways of occupying space; it would take what Mary Louise Pratt has termed a "continental" turn towards conquering and administrating the interiors of the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa. Sea and land alike came under the sway of the timetables organizing steamships and railroads. Living as we do after that turn away from the sea and into abstracted domains of time and space, it can be difficult to recapture the more uncertain parameters of everyday life, social movement, and literary imagination that pertained in the age of sail, the age of maritime empire. Its literature can help us reacquaint ourselves with the period; but we must take care to read that literature in its own strange terms.