London Program: The Archaeological Imagination in Engl. Culture

Autumn 2016-2017


Lawrence Rothfield

As Britain emerged as an imperial power, the concomitant rise of archaeology injected into British culture a series of alternative antiquities: Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indian, Celtic. In this course, we will look at some of the ways these various usable pasts were taken up in nineteenth-century English poetry, fiction, art and institutions, and used to imaginarily channel and refract political, social, and sexual anxieties and desires. Topics may include the Elgin Marbles controversy; Egyptomania; the excavations of Pompeii, Nineveh, and Stonehenge; decadence; the looting of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing; and the archaeologist as spy Readings may include Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn; Shelley’s Ozymandias; Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King; T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell; and Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia. We will probably take field trips to Stonehenge and to the British Museum. (C, F)