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Masks of Conquest

Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India

GAURI VISWANATHAN
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/visw17169
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  • Book Info
    Masks of Conquest
    Book Description:

    A classic work in postcolonial studies,Masks of Conquestdescribes the introduction of English studies in India under British rule and its function as an effective form of political control abetting voluntary cultural assimilation. Gauri Viswanathan demonstrates how the literary text functioned as a mirror of the ideal Englishman and became a mask of exploitation that camouflaged the material activities of the colonizing British government. In her new preface, she argues that the curricular study of English can no longer be understood innocently or inattentively to the deeper contexts of imperialism, transnationalism, and globalization in which the discipline first articulated its mission.Masks of Conquestilluminates the transcontinental movements and derivations of English studies, revealing the discipline's origins are as diffuse as its future shape.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53957-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    THIS BOOK is about the institution, practice, and ideology of English studies introduced in India under British colonial rule. It does not seek to be a comprehensive record of the history of English, nor does it even attempt to catalog, in minute historical fashion, the various educational decisions, acts, and resolutions that led to the institutionalization of English. The work draws upon the illuminating insight of Antonio Gramsci, writing on the relations of culture and power, that cultural domination works by consent and can (and often does) precede conquest by force. Power, operating concurrendy at two clearly distinguishable levels, produces...

  6. 1 The Beginnings of English Literary Study
    (pp. 23-44)

    ENGLISH LITERATURE made its appearance in India, albeit indirectly, with a crucial act in Indian educational history: the passing of the Charter Act in 1813. This act, renewing the East India Company’s charter for a twenty-year period, produced two major changes in Britain’s relationship with her colony: one was the assumption of a new responsibility toward native education, and the other was a relaxation of controls over missionary activity in India.

    Without minimizing the historical importance of the renewal of the Company’s charter, it would be safe to say that the more far-reaching significance of the Charter Act lay in...

  7. 2 Praeparatio Evangelica
    (pp. 45-67)

    THE 1835 English Education Act of William Bentinck, which swiftly followed Macaulay’s minute of that same year, officially required the natives of India to submit to the study of English literature, irrevocably altering the direction of Indian education. But the momentous significance of Bentinck’s resolution ought not obscure the fact that English was in existence in India even before that time, for rudimentary instruction in the language had been introduced more than two decades earlier. Though based on literary material, the early British Indian curriculum in English was primarily devoted to language studies. Initially, English did not supersede Oriental studies...

  8. 3 “One Power, One Mind”
    (pp. 68-93)

    IN ENGLISH social history the function of providing authority for individual action and belief and dispensing moral laws for the formation of character was traditionally carried out through the medium of church-controlled educational institutions. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, education in England was fully integrated with the church and shared many common features—curricula, goals, practices. Even when, by midnineteenth century, the ideological supremacy of the established churches was eroded and its integration with education replaced by new institutional relationships, the churches continued to function as interest groups influencing educational development. As the British sociologists Michalina Vaughan and...

  9. 4 Rewriting English
    (pp. 94-117)

    WHILE IDENTIFICATIONS between English literature and Christianity were occurring at one level, at another level the asserted unity of religion and literature was simultaneously disavowed, as evidenced in a series of contradictory statements. The most directly conflicting of these maintained, on the one hand, that English literature is “imbued with the spirit of Christianity” and “interwoven with the words of the Bible to a great degree” so that “without ever looking into the Bible one of those Natives must come to a considerable knowledge of it merely from reading English literature.”¹

    But in the same breath a counterclaim was made...

  10. 5 Lessons of History
    (pp. 118-141)

    THE ORIENTATION of literary study to the cultural heritage contained in a national past is a fairly new phenomenon, displacing an older rhetorical tradition. The inaugural lecture of A. J. Scott at University College, London, in 1848 is said to be the earliest instance of a formal academic plea for the study of literature as an expression of the culture of an age and as a reflection of society. By 1852 the historical study of English literature was firmly established in University College. In 1875 the alliance between literature and history was given institutional expression with the merging of the...

  11. 6 The Failure of English
    (pp. 142-165)

    FROM THE 1820s to the mid-1850s English literary studies had a predominantly religious and moral function in the Indian curriculum. But by 1857, when the Indian university system was formally instituted on the pattern of London University, the moral motive had begun to wear thin and cultural and moral value no longer claimed a common identity or goal. Ironically, this development occurred during a period when the moral motive was slowly gaining ground in English studies in England. The discipline of English literature itself was formally instituted in British schools only as late as 1871, and the longer history of...

  12. 7 Conclusion: Empire and the Western Canon
    (pp. 166-170)

    FINALLY, THE emergence of the discipline of English in colonial India, its rootedness in strategies of sociopolitical control, opens up fresh inquiry into possible implications of empire for current debates on curriculum in general. When, in our own times, students and faculty clamor for a broadening of curriculum to include submerged texts of minority and third world cultures, the knowledge that the discipline of English developed in colonial times would appear likely to strengthen their claims and force their opponents to reconsider the premises of the traditional Eurocentric curriculum. And to an extent a major objective of this book has...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 171-188)
  14. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 189-198)
  15. Index
    (pp. 199-212)