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EN2D4/EN3D4: Asia and the Victorians








Module Convenor: Dr Ross G. Forman

Seminars: Mondays, 10-11:30; 12-1:30; 5-6:30

Office Hours (H.539): Wednesdays, 11-12 and Thursdays, 12-1. Sign up for Office Hours here.




This module explores how Britons ‘in empire’ and at home and their ‘subjects’ imagined East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific during the Victorian period. Although concentrating on fiction, it surveys a range of representations, including travel writing, theatre, and essays to expose the various contexts and concerns that shaped Britain’s understanding of these geographical regions and, to some extent, how people in Asia reacted to Britain and the British. The module trains students in historical and cultural approaches to reading literary texts. Topics covered include inter-imperial rivalries; the representation of tea and other commodities; the rise of ethnographic expositions featuring Asian and Pacific food and handicrafts; and late-nineteenth-century interest in East Asian aesthetics. The module also introduces you to popular fiction from the nineteenth century.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  • Understand the trajectory of imperialism in Asia and the South Pacific and its influence on Anglophone literatures and cultures during the long nineteenth century.
  • Build knowledge about the growth of literacy in English and about Indian writing in English during the period.
  • Place British imperialism in Asia and the South Pacific in a comparative context and grasp the concepts of ‘informal imperialism,’ ‘gunboat diplomacy,’ and miscegenation.
  • Develop appropriate critical skills with which to analyze popular literary forms, such as the adventure novel and travel narrative.
  • Apply a knowledge of critical methodologies such as gender studies, postcolonial studies, and cultural studies to the set texts.
  • Improve your ability to develop a topic of your own choosing and to undertake independent research involving primary and secondary sources.

You may want to purchase the following texts for 2020/21. Other readings will be available online or through the Talis Aspire (via the Library). HOWEVER, DO NOT ASSUME THAT THE TALIS ASPIRE READING LIST COVERS ALL MATERIALS FOR EACH WEEK.

Many readings are available to download from or Project Gutenberg.

  • Elleke Boehmer, Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918.* NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE.
  • Philip Meadows Taylor, Confessions of a Thug.
    [Available through the Library's database Empire Online. An e-version of the novel also can be downloaded from]*
  • Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner, The Complete Indian Housekeeper. [Oxford edition recommended. Available from the Library via Empire Online.]
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.
  • Isabella Bird, The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither. [Available online via the Library. For print editions, Stanfords Travel Classics edition recommended.]
  • José Rizal, Noli Me Tangere. [Penguin Classics Edition.]* NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE.

Outline Syllabus for 2020/21

Term 1: Imperialism and Culture in South Asia
Week 1: Introduction: Theory and Reading Practices for the Global Nineteenth Century
Required Reading:
This list looks long, but most are short position pieces.
  • Tanya Agathocleous, "Criticism on Trial: Colonizing Affect in Late Victorian-Empire," Victorian Studies 60.3 (2018): 434-460.
  • Carolyn Betensky, "Casual Racism in Victorian Literature," Victorian Literature and Culture 47.4 (2019): 723-751.
  • Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, Amy R. Wong, "Undisciplining Victorian Studies," LA Review of Books 10 July 2020. Available at
  • Ryan D. Fong, "Empire," Victorian Literature and Culture 46.3/4 (2018): 665-668.
  • Kristin Mahoney, "On the Ceylon National Review, 1906-1911" at the BRANCH Collective.
  • Sukanya Banerjee, "Transimperial," Victorian Literature and Culture 46.3/4 (2018): 925-928.

Accompanying Literary Texts:
  • Toru Dutt, "Our Casuarina Tree" in Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan [Available from the Library via the Empire Online database or from the ebook of Mary Ellis Gibson's anthology Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India.]
  • Rudyard Kipling, "The Phantom Rickshaw"
Recommended Critical Reading:
  • Elleke Boehmer, "Imperialism and Textuality," Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005) 13-57.
  • Philippa Levine, "Britain in India," The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset" 53-82.

Week 2: Law and Empire
  • Philip Meadows Taylor, Confessions of a Thug.

Required Critical Reading:
  • Padma Rangarjan, "Thug Life: Confession, Subjectivity, Sovereignty," ELH 84.4 (2017): 1005-1028.
  • Mary Poovey, "Ambiguity and Historicism: Interpreting Confessions of a Thug," Narrative 12.1 (2004): 3-21

Week 3: Testimony and Truth
  • Taylor, Confessions of a Thug (to the end).

Required Critical Reading:
  • Parama Roy, "Discovering India, Imagining Thuggee," in Indian Traffic (UC Press E-books)
Recommended Critical Reading:
  • Matthew Kaiser, "Facing a Mirror: Philip Meadows Taylor's Confessions of a Thug and the Politics of Imperial Self-Incrimination" in Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame 70-88.

Week 4: The 1857 'Indian Mutiny' I: Immediate Responses
  • Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, The Perils of Certain English Prisoners.
    Download the scanned version of the original owned by Dr Forman here. (PDF Document)
  • Dion Boucicault, Jessie Brown, or the Relief of Lucknow. Available for download at

Required Critical Reading:
  • Maria K. Bachman, "Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and the Perils of Imagined Others" in Fear, Loathing, and Victorian Xenophobia 101-123.
  • Neil Hultgren, "Jessie Brown as Imperial Propaganda," Melodramatic Imperial Writing: From the Sepoy Rebellion to Cecil Rhodes 19-23 (print edition); 22-25 (online edition).

Recommended Critical Reading:
  • Lillian Nayder, "Class Consciousness and the Indian Mutiny: The Collaborative Fiction of 1857" in Unequal Partners: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Victorian Authorship.
  • Grace Moore, "A Tale of Three Revolutions: Dickens's Response to the Sepoy Rebellion." Dickens and Empire 113-133.
  • Alex Tickell, "The Perils of Certain English Prisoners: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and the Limits of Colonial Government." Nineteenth-century Literature 67.4 (2013): 457-489.

Week 5: The 'Indian Mutiny' II: Other 19th Century Responses
Required Critical Reading:


Week 7: The "First" Indian Novel

Required Critical Reading:
  • Sukanya Banerjee, "Troubling Conjugal Loyalties: The First Indian Novel in English and the Transimperial Framework of Sensation," Victorian Literature and Culture 42 (2014): 475-489.
  • Supriya Chaudhuri, "Beginnings: Rajmohan's Wife and the Novel in India" in A History of the Indian Novel in English 31-44.

Week 8: Women and Conduct

  • Cornelia Sorabji, selected short stories:
    "Love and Death"
    "Behind the Purah"
    "Draupadi and the Great Game"
  • E.F. Chapman, "Cornelia Sorabji," Sketches of Some Distinguished Indian Women (1891) 113-139.
  • Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner, The Complete Indian Housekeeper [Available online via the Library.]

    [Please read:

    I. Duties of the Mistress
    VI. Duties of the Servants
    XIX. Hints on Outfits
    XXX. Advice to the Cook
    XXXII. Game
    XLII. Native Dishes]

    Required Critical Reading:

  • Priya Joshi, "The Circulation of Fiction in Indian Libraries, ca. 1835-1901," In Another Country 35-92.


    Week 9: Writing and Resistance

  • Sri Aurobindo, "The Object of Passive Resistance" in Boehmer, Empire Writing.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji, "The Condiiton of India" in Poverty and Un-British Rule in India 636-642.
  • Sarojini Naidu, "Indian Dancers" and "The Royal Tombs of Golconda."
    [Available from the Library in the ebook of Mary Ellis Gibson's anthology Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India.]
  • Hossein, "The Sultana's Dream" Available at and at
  • Dutt, "The Republic of Orissa" in Bengaliana 347-356.
  • TN Mukharji, from A Visit to Europe: preface and Chapter II ("First Impressions"):
    Available for download from the Empire Online database via the Library website.
  • Pandita Ramabai, "The Cry of Indian Women" (PDF Document) in Pandita Ramabai in Her Own Words.

Required Critical Reading

  • Isabel Hofmeyr, "Printing Cultures in the Indian Ocean," Gandhi's Printing Press 30-45 and notes.

Week 10: India and the "Natural" World
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.

Required Critical Reading:

  • Elizabeth Chang, "Strange Country Gardens," Chapter 3 of Novel Cultivations: Plants in British Literature of the Nineteenth Century 84- and notes.

Recommended Critical Reading:

  • Jessica Straley, "Home Grown: Frances Hodgson Burnett and the Cultivation of Female Evolution," Evolution and Imagination in Victorian Children's Literature 147-174 and notes.


Term 2: British Engagements with East and Southeast Asia

Week 1: Theorizing British Engagements with the "Far East"


  • Alexander Bubb, "Asian Classic Literature and the English General Reader, 1845-1915" in The Edinburgh History of Reading: Common Readers.
  • Elizabeth Chang, China in The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature Eds. Felluga, Dino Franco, Pamela K. Gilbert and Linda K. Hughes. Vol. I, 250-52.
  • Anna Maria Jones, "Transnational Neo-Victorian Studies: Notes on the Possibilities and Limitations of a Discipline" in Literature Compass 15.7 (2018).
  • Julia Kuehn, "Knowing Bodies, Knowing Self: The Western Woman Traveller's Encounter with Chinese Women, Bound Feet and the Half-Caste Child, 1880-1920." Studies in Travel Writing 12.3 (2008): 265-290.
  • Josephine McDonagh and Briony Wickes, "The Nineteenth-century Opium Complex: From Thomas Love Peacock to Sherlock Holmes," Literature & History 29.1 (May 2020): 3-18.
  • Di Wu, "Wilde in Sinophone Culture," Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer (LGBTQ) History 1727-1731.

Accompanying Literary Texts:

Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Man with the Twisted Lip"
Yana Toboso, Black Butler vol. 4 (optional)

Week 2: China Tales
  • Julian Mitchell, "Bacillus Anti-Cathay," The Western Mail, Christmas Number, December 1910. Available at Trove Australian periodical database.
  • "The Amorous Chinaman," Queensland Figaro and Punch 28 Nov 1885. Available at Trove Australian periodical database.
  • Grant Allen [J. Arbuthnot Wilson], "Mr. Chung" in Belgravia 49, issue 196 (Feb 1883): 67-80. [Online from the Library via British Periodicals Collection I: 1866 to 1899 database.]
  • Selected Stories
    [Jay Denby, from Letters from China; Sarah Grand, "Ah Man" in The Woman at Home 1894: 24-30; Liese Boehm, "Mr. Wrong," Temple Bar 108 (May/Aug 1896); William Carlton Dawe, "Coolies" in Yellow and White (1895); James Dalziel, "John Dyer: Hero" in High Life in the Far East (1909).]
  • Captain Lancaster, "The Boxer Chief"
  • A.L. Cowley, "The Chinese Lantern"
  • Selected Music Hall Songs
Required Critical Reading:
Klaudia Hiu Yen Lee, "Contested Boundaries, Spatiality, and Short Fiction in the South China Morning Post, 1904-1907." Victorian Periodicals Review 50.1 (2017): 157-171.
Week 3: Writing the Boxer Rebellion: A Anglophone Chinese Perspective?
Recommended Critical Reading:
  • Ross G. Forman, "Peking Plots." China and the Victorian Imagination 98-129.
Recommended Supplementary Reading (Graphic Novel):
  • Gene Luen Yang, Boxers.
Week 4: The "Opening Up" of Japan
  • Lafcadio Hearn, "Jujitsu" in Out of the East: Reveries and Studies in New Japan 183-242.
  • ---. "The Japanese Family," in Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation 41-57.
  • ---. "The Story of Mimi Nashi Hoichi" ["Hoici the Earless"] in Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn 52-56.

  • Okakura Kazuko, "The Tea-Room" in The Book of Tea 56-69.
  • Natsune Soseki, "The Tower of London" in The Tower of London: Tales of Victorian London, trans. Damian Flanagan.
  • Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying"
    Also available for download at:
Required Critical Reading:
  • Grace Lavery, "Introduction," Quaint Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan, 3-33.
  • William S. Rodner, "Japan in Britain," Edwardian London through Japanese Eyes: The Art and Writing of Yoshio Markino, 1897-1915 15-34.
Week 5: The Japan of Pure Invention
  • W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, The Mikado(PDF Document)
  • A.B. Mitford, selected stories from Tales of Old Japan (PDF Document). Available online at Project Gutenberg and

Please read:


"The Forty-seven Ronins"

"The Eta Maiden and the Hatamoto"

Required Critical Reading:
  • Joseph McLaughlin, '"The Japanese Village" and the Metropolitan Construction of Modernity' (PDF Document)
Week 6:


Week 7: The Making of the Philippines
  • José Rizal, Noli Me Tangere*
*This is a long novel, so you are advised to start it early.
Required Critical Reading:
  • Benedict Anderson, 'The First Filipino,' from Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons (PDF Document)
Recommended Reading:
  • Juan de Castro, ' En qué idioma escribe Ud.?': Spanish, Tagolog, and Identity in José Rizal's Noli Me Tangere (PDF Document)
Week 8: Situating British Imperialism in Southeast Asia:
  • Thomas Stamford Raffles, The History of Java, Vol.1, Chapter 2. [Available online via the Library website.]
  • Alfred Russel Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, Chapter 2: "Singapore" and Chapter 40: "The Races of Man in the Malay Archipelago."
    [Available online via the Library website.]
  • Bram Stoker, "The Red Stockade." Download at
  • G.A. Henty, "In the Hands of the Malays" in In the Hands of the Malays and Other Stories at
  • Anna Leonowenes, from The English Governess at the Siamese Court. Please read: Chapter 1: "On the Threshold" and Chapter 15: "The City of Bangkok."
    Available at

    Recommended Critical Reading:
  • Sud Chonchirdsin, "The Ambivalent Attitudes of the Siamese Elite towards the West during the Reign of King Chungalongkorn, 1868-1910," South East Asia Research 17.3 (2009): 433-456.

Week 9: Popular Fiction at the Heart of Empire

  • Richard Marsh, The Joss [Available online through].
  • Gertrude Donaldson. "A Vanished Idol." The English Illustrated Magazine Feb. 1909.

Week 10: "The Female Globetrotter" in Southeast Asia
  •   Isabella Bird, The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither.

Required Critical Reading:

  • Eddie Tay, "Discourses of Difference: Isabella Bird, Emily Innes and Florence Caddy," Colony, Nation, and Globalisation: Not at Home in Singaporean and Malaysian Literature 31-43.

Methods of Assessment



TWO 4,000-word essays plus ONE unassessed presentation.


Presentations are meant to be informal and to offer a forum for you to introduce and analyze either a primary text or a critical reading for the week assigned. You are encouraged to develop 1-2 discussion questions to share with the group, either in advance, or during the seminar. Reading beyond the materials on the syllabus is not expected. You may use PowerPoint, if you wish. If you wish to prerecord your presentation because of internet connections or other issues, please consult your tutor.


Essay titles will be provided, but you are encouraged to develop your own title, in consultation with your tutor. You are encouraged to attend office hours to discuss your topic and thesis statement or to contact me by email.


TWO 4,500-word essays plus ONE unassessed presentation.


Presentations are meant to be informal and to offer a forum for you to introduce and analyze either a primary text or a critical reading for the week assigned. You are encouraged to develop 1-2 discussion questions to share with the group, either in advance, or during the seminar. Reading beyond the materials on the syllabus is not expected. You may use PowerPoint, if you wish. If you wish to prerecord your presentation because of internet connections or other issues, please consult your tutor.


Finalists are expected to develop their own title, in consultation with their tutor. You are encouraged to attend office hours to discuss your topic and thesis statement or to contact me by email.

Indicative Bibliography

Banerjee, Sukanya. Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late-Victorian Empire. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.

Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures: Migrant Metaphors. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.

BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, [A huge collective project with articles on over 100 topics written by top scholars from around the world.]

Bubb, Alexander. Meeting without Knowing It: Kipling and Yeats at the Fin de Siècle. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016.

Buettner, Elizabeth. Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.

Chang, Elizabeth. Britain's Chinese Eye: Literature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-century Britain. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2010.

---. Novel Cultivations.. Charlottesville, VA: U of Virgina P, 2019.

The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature. Ed Dino Franco Felluga, Pamela K. Gilbert, and Linda K. Hughes. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.

Edmond, Rod. Representing the South Pacific: Colonial Discourse from Cook to Gaugin. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005.

Finkelstein, David, and Douglas Peers, eds. Negotiating India in Nineteenth-century Media. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

Forman, Ross G. China and the Victorian Imagination: Empires Entwined. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013.

Francis, Andrew. Culture and Commerce in Conrad's Asian Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015.

Gan, Wendy. Comic China: Representing Common Ground, 1890-1945. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2018.

Gibson, Mary Ellis. Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780-1913: A Critical Anthology. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2011.

---. Indian Angles: English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2011.

Gibson, Mary Ellis, ed. Science Fiction in Colonial India, 1835-1905: Five Stories of Speculation, Resistance, and Rebellion. London: Anthem Press, 2019.

GoGwilt, Christopher. The Fiction of Geopolitics. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2000.

Hultgren, Neil. Melodramatic Imperial Writing: From the Sepoy Rebellion to Cecil Rhodes. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014.

Jolly, Rosyln. Robert Louis Stevenson in the Pacific: Travel, Empire, and the Author's Profession. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009.

Joshi, Priya. In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.

Keevak, Michael. Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2011.

Lee, Klaudia Hiu Yen. Charles DIckens and China, 1895-1915: Cross-Cultural Encounters. London: Routledge, 2016.

Moore, Grace, ed. Pirates and Mutineers of the Nineteenth Century. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011.

Mukherjee, Pablo. Crime and Empire: Representing India in the Nineteenth-Century. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.

Patke, Rajeev S., and Philip Holden. The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English. London: Routledge, 2010.

Schmitt, Cannon. Alien Nation: Nineteenth-century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1997.

Sinha, Mrinalini. Colonial Masculnity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the "Effeminate Bengali' in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1995.

Suleri, Sara. The Rhetoric of British India. 1992. London: Penguin, 2005.

Thurin, Susan. Victorian Travelers and the Opening of China, 1842-1907. Athens: Ohio UP, 1999.

Tickell, Alex. Terrorism, Insurgency and Indian-English Literature, 1830-1947. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. 8th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2008.