Colonialism and English education at the University of Hong Kong,1913-1964

by Poon, Scarlet

Abstract (Summary)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis entitled

Colonialism and English Education at The University of Hong Kong, 1913-1964

Submitted by

Scarlet Po on

for the degree of Master of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong

in August, 2003

This thesis examines the history of English education at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) from 1913 to 1964. English literary studies, as a nationalistic academic discourse in England, was an iconic subject in particular for introducing English values and traditions at this colonial "British" university. A critical study of its disciplinary history at HKU raises questions about the impact of colonialism, imperialism and nationalism on the subject and the University at large.

This study employs a mixture of thematic exposition and historical narrative.

Thematically, a macroscopic approach was adopted to contextualize the thesis within a broader framework of the history of English literary studies in Britain. University archival materials, staff and student publications and public records were consulted for an overview of the teaching and learning of English in this English- medium


Chapter 1 gives an overview of the national significance of the discipline in Britain and its expected roles in the Commonwealth, in relation to the objectives of the English Association founded in 1907. In Chapter 2, the distinctive nature of HKU as a British secular colonial institution is highlighted through a brief set of comparative studies with other western colleges and universities in China. Chapter 3 reconstructs aspects of the first fifty years of the English Department, particularly the period (1920-1951) when it was headed by R. K. M. Simpson. Simpson stressed the interdisciplinarity of English literary studies, and emphasized that English was a gateway to western civilization and culture or "general knowledge". This undercut the general belief that English literary studies merely expounded "Britishness" or

"Englishness", and widened its appeal to students in Hong Kong by presenting it as an aid to the acquisition of western knowledge. Chapter 4 is concerned with the practicality and ideology of English Studies as a branch of Arts education While humanities subjects were prized in traditional scholarship, English literary studies were looked down upon as an impractical and feminized discipline (or in Professor Edmund Blunden' s view, a subject of "British sensibility") with an ambiguous status at the University.

The transplantation of English Studies into a colonial context, against the background of their complex evolution from a nationalistic discourse to a would-be scientific enterprise with the advent of literary criticism, reveals the tensions inherent in the teaching of this subject at university level. An understanding of the evolution of English Studies can also serve to illuminate debates about the ideological status of the discipline in postcolonial Hong Kong.

Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:university of hong kong dept english philology study and teaching higher china political aspects education great britain colonies


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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