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Imperial Desire: Dissident Sexualities and Colonial Literature

Philip Holden
Richard J. Ruppel
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Imperial Desire
    Book Description:

    An exploration of the intersection of colonialism and homosexuality in fiction and travel writing, this volume brings together two dynamic fields of academic inquiry: colonial discourse analysis and queer theory. Contributors: Anjali Arondekar, John C. Beynon, Joseph A. Boone, Sarah Cole, Lois Cucullu, Maria Davidis, Dennis Denisoff, Mark Forrester, Terry Goldie, Christopher Lane, Tim Middleton, Hans Turley.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9260-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxvi)
    Philip Holden and Richard J. Ruppel

    “My book,” writes Gayatri Spivak in her preface toA Critique of Postcolonial Reason,“charts a practitioner’s progress from colonial discourse studies to transnational cultural studies.”¹ The path Spivak has taken is one that has been followed by many cultural theorists working in postcolonial studies² through the 1990s and into the new millennium. Colonial discourse analysis’s relentless deconstruction of colonial texts written by Europeans has been replaced with a more nuanced understanding of colonial social structures, and an emphasis on diasporic histories that intersect with, but are not contained by, colonialism. Queer theory, similarly, has exceeded the careful examination of...

  4. Part I Frontiers and Discoveries

    • CHAPTER ONE The Sublimation of Desire to Apocalyptic Passion in Defoe’s Crusoe Trilogy
      (pp. 3-20)
      Hans Turley

      In Michel Tournier’sFriday(1967)¹—an extraordinary retelling of Daniel Defoe’sRobinson Crusoe(1719) and of the mythology of Crusoe—Robinson consummates his desire to control the island completely:

      He buried his face in the grass roots, breathing open-mouthed a long, hot breath. And the earth responded, filling his nostrils with the heavy scent of dead grass and the ripening of seed, and of sap rising in new shoots. How closely and how wisely were life and death intermingled at this elemental level! His sex burrowed like a plowshare into the earth, and overflowed in immense compassion for all created...

    • CHAPTER TWO Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Sapphic Vision
      (pp. 21-43)
      John C. Beynon

      Shortly after leaving Constantinople on her return voyage to England, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu passed through Greece in July of 1718 and wrote to her friend, the Abbé Conti, of the sites of classical antiquity she visited during her journey. While roaming through the Grecian countryside, Lady Mary ruminated on the land of theIliadand tried to imagine the feats of Menelaus, Paris, and Ajax as she passed through Homeric landscapes. Yet, in the midst of such heroic raptures, she writes, “I can-not forebear mentioning Lesbos, where Sapho sung.”¹ Later as she scans the islands of the Aegean from...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Guise of Friendship
      (pp. 44-62)
      Terry Goldie

      John Richardson’sWacousta or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas¹has been seen as one of the defining texts of English Canadian culture. While both the date of the action, 1763, and the date of publication, 1832, are well before Canadian confederation in 1867, it has been read as symbolizing various processes through which the country emerged from its colonial status. Gaile McGregor names her thematic study of Canadian literatureThe Wacousta Syndrome²and Robin Mathews’s highly polemical analysis,Canadian Literature: Surrender or Revolution,states that“Wacousta,the first major novel to be written by an author born in...

  5. Part II Queering the New Imperialism

    • CHAPTER FOUR Lingering Pleasures, Perverted Texts: Colonial Desire in Kipling’s Anglo-India
      (pp. 65-89)
      Anjali Arondekar

      With the arrival of Rudyard Kipling, the Anglo-Indian story of the British empire takes on a new cast. Andrew Lang, one of the foremost literary critics of the 1890s, writes: “Mr. Kipling makes us regard the continent [India] which was a bore as an enchanted land, full of marvels and magic which are real.”¹ S. R. Crockett remarked, in 1895, that the “pre-Kipling generation had only to glimpse the word ‘Indian’ at the head of an article, or upon the title of a book, to retreat with a boredom that verged upon disgust.”² Even Kipling’s toughest critics, such as Robert...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Fantasies of “Lady Pioneers,” between Narrative and Theory
      (pp. 90-114)
      Christopher Lane

      “The truth is,” writes Simon Gikandi inMaps of Englishness,“students of colonial discourse and postcolonial theory do not know what to do with the women of empire—whether these women are European or native.”¹ The problem arises, he argues, because we “want to read woman as the absolute other in the colonial relation” so that we can investigate imperial narratives and their associated ideologies. But when we define white women as “figures of colonial alterity,” as he puts it, we deny “their cultural agency” and the important institutional role they played in “the dominant discourse[s] of empire” (122).


    • CHAPTER SIX Redressing the Empire: Anthony Trollope and British Gender Anxiety in “The Banks of the Jordan”
      (pp. 115-132)
      Mark Forrester

      When theLondon Reviewpublished Anthony Trollope’s short story “The Banks of the Jordan” in three installments during January of 1861, the magazine seems to have been fully unprepared for the controversy that ensued.¹ Laurence Oliphant, a proprietor of theReview,wrote to the author to convey his own—and his partners’—sense of dismay, citing but one relatively mild example of the public’s unfavorable response to Trollope’s story: “You must make your election whether you will adapt your paper to the taste of men of intelligence & high moral feelingorto that of persons of morbid imagination &...

  6. Part III Century’s End:: Conrad’s Queer Indirections

    • CHAPTER SEVEN From Mimicry to Menace: Conrad and Late-Victorian Masculinity
      (pp. 135-151)
      Tim Middleton

      Conrad’s 1897 novel was published at a time of heightened imperialist activity and in a culture where gender was a key site of contemporary debate.¹ This essay examines the representation of masculinity inThe Nigger of the “Narcissus”and suggests that Conrad, by mimicking the ambivalence of colonial discourse in this arena, turns what might otherwise be read as a straight tale of masculine solidarity in the face of hardships and dissent into a far more troubling account of the tensions inherent in imperialist accounts of male identity in the late nineteenth century.

      As an artist, Conrad, prompted by his...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT “Girl! What? Did I Mention a Girl?” The Economy of Desire in Heart of Darkness
      (pp. 152-171)
      Richard J.Ruppel

      Conrad’s novels and stories contain many representations of homosexual desire.¹In Lord Jim(1900), the eponymous hero—though sexually passive—is desired not only by the heroine, Jewel, but also by the mill owner he works for and by Marlow himself. InUnder Western Eyes(1911), the language-teacher narrator can be seen as a rather bitter, closeted homosexual, sexually attracted to Razumov. In Natalia Haldin, the narrator has found a “virile” young woman whom he can admire, even sexually, and the somber, disappointed tone of the novel might be attributed to his knowledge that a union between them is impossible....

    • CHAPTER NINE Homoerotic Heroics, Domestic Discipline: Conrad and Ford’s Romance
      (pp. 172-192)
      Sarah Cole

      Empire and homoerotics—two terms that have come to be linked in the contemporary critical vocabulary. By the end of the nineteenth century, a flourishing tradition of English imperial writing, including adventure novels, travel tales, scholarly treatises, and the developing “science” of ethnography, had brought home to the metropolis a complex array of messages about the nature and effects of colonial encounters, fostering a notion of imperial travel as a seething site of erotic possibilities among men.¹ By century’s end, life in the “contact zone,” to borrow Mary Louise Pratt’s suggestive phrase, seemed both reassuringly familiar as a field of...

  7. Part IV Other Colonialisms

    • CHAPTER TEN “Only Cathect”: Queer Heirs and Narrative Desires in Howards End
      (pp. 195-222)
      Lois Cucullu

      Until Fredric Jameson’s perceptive rumination on the Great North Road as a spatial signifier of imperial expansion,Howards Endwas generally deemed a novel of local concerns, and with ample justification.¹ So expressive of a domestic sensibility did one early reviewer find it that its author was praised for “what appears to be a feminine brilliance of perception.”² Subsequent readers found the inordinate investment heaped rhetorically on the ordinary spaces collected under the eponymous Howards End—house, rooms, garden, pony ring, meadow—as evidence of Forster’s obsessive longing for his lost boyhood home, Rooksnest. More grandly, the yearning for these...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN “Unarm, Eros!”: Adventure, Homoeroticism, and Divine Order in Prester John
      (pp. 223-240)
      Maria Davidis

      Of all of John Buchan’s adventure books,Prester John(1910) most invites current reexamination, given its complex mix of racial politics and an advocacy of empire more subtle than that of many boys’ books of the time.¹ The story of Davie Crawfurd’s detection and suppression of a planned pan-African rebellion led by John Laputa, a black minister and self-proclaimed heir to the throne of Prester John,² Buchan’s novel reveals itself as an effort to hold on to the promise and glory of empire in the post–Boer War era, when imperialism was held in lower esteem than it had traditionally...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Many Lips Will I Kiss: The Queer Foreplay of “the East” in Russian Aestheticism
      (pp. 241-260)
      Dennis Denisoff

      The diverse characters who populate Mikhail Kuzmin’s novelWings(1906) all find the time to philosophize on the relation of erotic pleasure to ethics and cultural norms. Their speeches create a refrain so familiar that Kuzmin doesn’t even bother to note the identity of the orator of the following defense of “unnatural” desires:

      People go about like the blind, like the dead, when they might create for themselves a life burning with intensity in every moment, a life in which pleasure would be as poignant as if you had just come into the world and might die before the day...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Sex/Race Wars on the Frontier: Homosexuality and Colonialism in The Golden Notebook
      (pp. 261-294)
      Joseph A. Boone

      An acute awareness of modernity, to paraphrase Linda Kauffman, runs throughout Doris Lessing’sThe Golden Notebook(1962),¹ a novel that imparts a sweepingly global vision of what Lessing calls “the ideological ‘feel’ of our mid-century” and the “great debates of our time” (xi). Confronting what she sees as the cataclysmic breakdown of existing systems of Enlightenment order, Lessing tackles a number of “major” issues and debates, from Marxism to psychology to feminism, most of which have been amply dissected by the Lessing industry that ran riot in the 1960s and 1970s. I want to suggest, however, that we might find...

  8. CODA Rethinking Colonial Discourse Analysis and Queer Studies
    (pp. 295-322)
    Philip Holden

    In Shyam Selvadurai’sCinnamon Gardensthe protagonist Balendran Naveratnam is jolted from the comfort of his elite colonial lifestyle in Colombo by the sudden appearance of an English book:

    The books were in high piles on the floor, and, as he walked around them to get to his desk, Balendran noticed a copy of Edward Carpenter’sFrom Adam’s Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and Indiasitting on top of one pile. He picked it up. It had been a gift from Richard. He opened the book and read the dedication Carpenter had written to him, recalling the trip Richard...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 323-326)
  10. Index
    (pp. 327-335)