Topic: Towards a New Imperial Order

Texts Examined: 

The Woman of Colour; The Asiatic Princess and/or The Female American

The Asiatic Princess constructs an interracial family in which Merje, a Native princess, is tutored by Lady Emma, an English lady. It appears to me like a prequel to The Woman of Colour, in which Olivia has finished her education and needs real-life experiences to resolve the issues brought by her mix-raced identity. The Female American, on the other hand, can be seen as a sequel to The Woman of Colour. Here the heroine becomes Robinson Crusoe, guides the natives on an island to Christianity, and maintains the island’s independence from the British.

Foundational Text: 

The Anglo-Indian Novel, 1774-1825: Ameliorative Imperialisms, by Samir M Soni.

http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/dissertations-theses/anglo-indian-novel-1774-1825-ameliorative/docview/1858820521/se-2?accountid=7107

Soni focuses on the idea of “ameliorative imperialism” to describes character in Anglo-Indian novels who seek amelioration rather than radical change in dealing with the colonial crises. He also discusses two related positions: “exploitative imperialists” who advocate maintaining existing colonial institutions (often with full knowledge of colonial atrocities) and “abolitionists” who advocate decolonization (though not necessarily the forced removal of British residents in India). Ameliorative imperialism is brought up under this context to advocate for the continuation of the empire while expressing sympathy for Indians. Soni’s paper helps me in understanding the heroines in The Woman of Colour and The Female American as they both aim to perpetuate colonial rule by becoming better masters than the British.

Supplemental Criticism:

The Exotic Woman in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction and Culture: A Reconsideration, by Piya Pal-Lapinski, University of New Hampshire Press

Piya Pal-Lapinski analyzes nineteenth-century British (and French and Italian) cultural production through the figure of the odalisque, a hybrid form that encompasses not just the Oriental/Asian stereotype of women but also the exoticized European woman. She argues that “the body of the odalisque … resists closure and implodes the imperatives of ethnography, threatening the coherence of ‘whiteness’ as a racial category.” (xvi) The odalisque is also “deeply linked to the tensions arising from the encounter between cultures of female libertinism and emerging bourgeois ideologies of domesticity throughout the nineteenth century.” (xvii) I wonder if the odalisque could be compared with Olivia (a mix-raced character and thus a biological hybrid of British/Non-British norms) and if Olivia — in an alternative ending — could become an odalisque. I am also looking for ways to better structure the odalisque in my discussion of feminist imperialism.

Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse, by Homi Bhabha

https://doi.org/10.2307/778467

Colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite; a move towards the same while moving back to remain the difference. It is important to understand that the construction of the Other allows the empire to exist. If the Subject and the Other are completely different, that might justify decolonization (who are we to rule over a people completely different from us?) If they are completely the same, then the brutal colonial rule becomes unjustifiable (you cannot rule someone in such a way if they are exactly like you.) Therefore, a slight difference has to be maintained between the Subject and the Other to enable domination. “Human and not wholly human.”

Models of Morality: The Bildungsroman and Social Reform in The Female American and The Woman of Colour, byVictoria Barnett-Woods

https://doi.org/10.1080/00497878.2016.1225400

Barnett-Woods discusses the Bildungsroman, a long-prose fiction genre developed out of the existing picaresque and adventure tales of previous literary generations. The protagonists of the Bildungsroman are traditionally male, but both The Female American and The Woman of Colour use the form to narrate the stories of colored women. Barnett-Woods’ major arguments are: first, the woman of color in the New World provides an alternative center of moral reformation in the British metropole; second, the Bildungsroman as an 18th-century literary form serves as a vessel for negotiating the transatlantic tensions of race, gender, and empire. I chose this article as it covers both Olivia and Unca and their development as new models of moral citizenry and femininity in a transatlantic Britain.

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