Instructor: Laura Quinton
Meeting time: Wednesday, 3:00-5:00 pm
Today, the United Kingdom is considered one of the world’s “soft power superpowers.” How did this small island come to wield such outsize global influence? From Voltaire’s rhapsodizing about eighteenth-century England to present-day infatuations with James Bond, Harry Potter, and the Royal Family, this course explores how British art and culture have historically produced alluring national images. What “British” qualities have captured the world’s imagination, and to what extent are they a fantasy that overlooks dynamics of class and multiculturalism? What countries, leaders, and popular audiences around the world have latched on to these images, and to what end? Have they launched revolutions or upheld hierarchies? Considering these questions, we will examine British performing and visual arts, literature, sports, education, and fashion as channels of power - deployed at times by British elites and politicians - and chart the relationship between this nation’s creative ascendence and its imperial decline.