Fictions of Fallen Empires
- Sarah Chihaya (University of California, Berkeley), Jessica Crewe (University of California, Berkeley)
This seminar will consider the imagined lives and afterlives of empire. From representations of ancient Rome in Shakespeare’s history plays, to Flaubert’s detailed depiction of Carthage in Salammbô, to epic glorifications of feudal Japan in the works of Yoshikawa Eji, images of past imperial formations recur perennially in literary culture. In our particular moment, portrayals of both historical and imaginary dominions are everywhere in popular culture, from Downton Abbey’s fetishized vision of Edwardian life to Game of Thrones’ fantastical world of Westeros.
We welcome submissions that take inspiration from the following questions, among others:
- How do nostalgic or romanticized views of earlier conceptions of empire continue to circulate?
- What kinds of desires or anxieties might these fictional reengagements with dynasties of the past express?
- Why might reaching back to earlier models of political, economic, and cultural expansion be particularly relevant in today’s globalizing world?
- How do these fantasies of past empires play upon contemporary fears that categories such as the local, the national, and even the planetary have been eroded?
SEMINAR KEYWORDS: empire, historical fiction, colonial history, postcolonial studies, fantasy, globalization, world
literature, comparative history