Gendering the Indian Ocean

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Romantic Empires: Gender, Genre and the Raj, 1789-1817

Nicole Reynolds

Course Rationale:

In Fables of Modernity, Laura Brown offers a new critical rubric through which she "links literary culture with the major forces of historical change" (3).  The "cultural fable," Brown posits, transcends individual writers and particular texts, borrowing from various modes of discourse even as it maintains an "aesthetic distinctiveness" that makes it easily recognizable, easily read (2).  In weaving together travel narratives, novels, letters, pamphlets and polemics, however, the cultural fable tells a story full of contradiction and ambivalence; it can both affirm and undermine accepted prejudices and beliefs (4).

This proposed course adopts Brown's notion of the cultural fable in order to theorize, contextualize, and problematize Romantic Britain's mutliple investments (emotional, intellectual, financial) in India, especially as they were exposed in the rhetoric surrounding the Warren Hastings trial (1788-1795).  In particular, the readings presented here comprise a cultural fable that explores how constructions of gender and constructions of empire mutually inform each other.  For example, Edmund Burke's incindiary accusations against Hastings were fueled by graphic depictions of violated Indian women, while the English inguenue of Phebe Gibbes' Hartly House, Calcutta (1789) "uses racial difference as a site for crititque of orthodox British gendering" (Grundy 83).  As a cultural fable, the Hastings trial helped change the way the British public understood Britain's role in India; tales of the East India Company's commercial exploits were subsumed within a paternalistic, moralizing idiom as the British public confronted Burke's "exhaustive compilation of colonial guilt" (Suleri 51).  Discursively and materially, the remote trading outpost became part of an empire.

Another goal of this course is to examine the relationship between the aesthetic discourses of Romanticism and the material practices of empire.  Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh conclude that "British Romanticism itself -- associated as it has been with the sublime, the exotic, and the 'primative,' and more recently implicated in the founding of an 'English' cultural identity and the grounding of a wishfully autonomous form of subjectivity, at once defensively isolated and yet aggressively  incorporative -- may be interpreted   as a response to the collective experience, ideological requirements, and deforming effects of imperialism" (4-5).
In Romanticism and Colonialism, Peter Kitson oulines the several colonialist topoi that shaped British Romanticism: Burke's version of Hastings in India, abolition, the taxonomy of racial discourse, the conflation of race and sexuality (13-34).

The texts suggested below address all of these issues in myriad and complicated ways.  Drawn from a variety of literary genres, they work to identity and interrogate the "aesthetic distinctiveness" of the Hastings cultural fable and of Romanticism itself.  I've included four English novels that are either set in India or feature Indian characters and episodes: Bage's Man As He Is (1792), Gibbes' Hartly House, Calcutta (1789), Hamilton's Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1796), and Lady Morgan's The Missionary: An Indian Tale (1811).  The last two novels are available in excellent editions from Broadview Press, while the first two will need to be copied and incorporated in a course packet.  Selections from Burney's journals and letters that record her visits to the trial, her support of Hastings and her disapproval of Burke, set the scene in which Burke and Sheridan made their case against Hastings.  Burney describes their theatrical flourishes in Parliament and their reception in society circles.  Plays by M. G. Lewis and Mariana Starke (Starke's The Sword of Peace is available on-line), written and performed during the years of the trial, confirm our sense of the stage-worthiness of the spectacle: the dramatic, even melodramatic flair of the speeches given before Parliament.  These speeches are available in modern editions, and some of Burke's are on-line at <>.  Excerpts from travel literature (Eliza Fay, Maria Graham, William Hodges) indulge an orientalist idiom that betrays a certain ambivalence about the British project in India.

Primary Texts:

Bage, Robert.  Man As He Is.  London: William Lane, 1792.

Burke, Edmund.  Articles of Charge of High Crimes and Misdemeanours, Against Warren Hastings,  Esquire, Late Governor General of Bengal: Presented to the House of Commons upon the  Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Eighth Days of April, 1786.  London: John Stockdale, 1786.

---.  The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Gen. Ed. Paul Langford.  Oxford: Clarendon  Press, 1980-.  From Volume 6: Second Article of Impeachment, concerning the Begums of  Oude (147-156); Speech delivered February 18, 1788 (373-427).

Burney, Frances.  Diary and Letters of Madame d'Arblay (1778-1840).  Ed. Austin Dobson.  6 vols.   London: Macmillan, 1904-5.

---.  The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (Madame D'Arblay).  Ed. Joyce Hemlow.  Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1972-.

Fay, Eliza.  Original Letters from India (1779-1815).  1817.  Ed. E. M. Forster.  London: The  Hogarth Press, 1925, 1986.

Gibbes, Phebe.  Hartly House, Calcutta.  1789.  Ed. John Macfarlane.  Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and  Co., 1908; Bibhash Gupta, Calcutta, 1984.

Gibbes, Phebe.  Hartly House, Calcutta: A Novel of the Days of Warren Hastings.  Ed. Monica  Clough.  London and Winchester, MA: Pluto Press, 1989.

Graham, Maria.  Journal of a Residence in India.  London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and  Browne, 1812.

---.  Letters from India.  London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Browne, 1814.

Hamilton, Elizabeth.  Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah.  1796.  Eds. Pamela Perkins and  Shannon Russell.  Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999.

Hastings, Warren.  The Defense of Warren Hastings, Esq., Late Governor General of Bengal, at the  Bar of the House of Commons: Upon the Matter of the Several Charges of High Crimes and  Misdemeanors Presented Against Him in the Year 1786.  London: John Stockdale, 1786.

---.  Memoirs Relative to the State of India.  London: J. Murray, 1787.

Hodges, William.  Select Views in India.  2 vols.  London: Printed for the Author, 1785-1788.

---.  Travels in India, During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, &1783.  London: Printed for the Author,  1793.

Lewis, M. G.  The East Indian.  London: J. Davis, 1799.

Owenson, Sydney.  The Missionary: An Indian Tale.  1811.  Ed. Julia M. Wright.  Peterborough,  Ontario: Broadview Press, 2002.

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley.  The Speech of R. B. Sheridan, Esq. on Summing up the Second  Charge Against Warren Hastings, Esq.: Before the High Court of Parliament, in  Westminster-Hall, Tuesday, June 3, 1788 and Three Subsequent Days.  London: J. Dicrie,  1788.

---.  Speech of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., Manager for the House of Commons, in Summing  up the Evidence on the Second Article of Charge, Relating to the Begums of Oude; 3, 6, 10,  13 June, 1788. Speeches of the Managers and Counsel in the Trial of Warren Hastings.  Ed.  E. A. Bond.  Vol. 1.  London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1859:  482-729.

Starke, Mariana.  The Sword of Peace.  1788.  British Women Playwrights Around 1800.  Ed.  Thomas Chochunis and Michael Eberle-Sinatra.  January 2000, <http://www->

---.  The Widow of Malabar: A Tragedy in Three Acts.  London: William Lane, 1791.

Secondary Sources:

Brown, Laura.  Fables of Modernity: Literature and Culture in the English Eighteenth Century.   Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.

Bruyn, Frans de.  "Edmund Burke's Gothic Romance: The Portrayal of Warren Hastings in Burke's  Writings and Speeches on India." Criticism 29 (1987): 415-438.

Carnall, Geoffrey and Nicholson, Colin eds.  The Impeachment of Warren Hastings: Papers from a  Bicentenary Commemoration.  Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989.

Dyson, Ketaki Kushari.  A Various Universe: A Study of the Journals and Memoirs of British Men  and Women in the Indian Subcontinent, 1765-1856.  Oxford: Oxford University Press,  1978.

Franklin, Michael J.  "Accessing India: Orientalism, Anti-'Indianism,' and the Rhetoric of Jones and  Burke."  Romanticism and Colonialism: Writing Empire 1780-1830.  Eds. Tim Fulford and  Peter J. Kitson.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

---, ed.  Representing India: Indian Culture and Imperial Control in Eighteenth-Century British  Orientalist Discourse.  9 vols.  London: Routledge, 2000.

Grundy, Isobel.  " 'The barbarous character we give them': White Women Travellers Report on  Other Races."  Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 22 (1992): 73-86.

Guest, Harriet.  "The Great Distinction: Figures of the Exotic in the Work of William Hodges."  New  Feminist Discourses: Critical Essays on Theories and Texts.  Ed. Isobel Armstrong.   London: Routledge, 1992.  296-341.

Juneja, Renu.  "The Native and the Nabob: Representations of the Indian Experience in Eighteenth- Century English Literature."  Journal of Commonwealth Literature 27 (1992): 183-198.

Keen, Paul.  "Oriental Literature."  The Crisis of Literature in the 1790's: Print Culture and the Public  Sphere.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Leask, Nigel.  British Romantic Writers and the East: Anxieties of Empire.  Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press, 1992.

---.  Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing, 1770-1840.  Oxford: Oxford University Press,  2002.

Makdisi, Saree.  Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Marshall, P. J.  East Indian Fortunes: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1976.

---.  The Impeachment of Warren Hastings.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

McCann, Andrew.  "Edmund Burke's Immortal Law: Reading the Impeachment of Warren Hastings,  1788."  Cultural Politics in the 1790's: Literature, Radicalism, and the Public Sphere.   Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press LTD, 1999.  33-58.

Metcalf, Barbara D. and Metcalf, Thomas R.  A Concise History of India.  Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press, 2002.

Moskal, Jeanne.  "English National Identity in Mariana Starke's The Sword of Peace: India,  Abolition, and the Rights of Women." Women in British Romantic Theatre: Drama,  Performance, and Society, 1790-1840.  Ed. Catherine Burroughs.  Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press, 2000.  102-131.

Nussbaum, Felicity.  Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English  Narrative.  Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Pratt, Mary Louise.  Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation.  London: Routledge, 1992.

Rajan, Balachandra.  "Feminizing the Feminine: Early Woman Writers of India."  Romanticism,  Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780-1834.  Eds. Alan Richardson and Sonia Hofkosh.   Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.  149-172.

Samet, Elizabeth D.  "A Prosecutor and a Gentleman: Edmund Burke's Idiom of Impeachment."   English Literary History  68 (2001): 397-418.

Spear, Percival.  The Nabobs: A Study of the Social Life of the English in Eighteenth-Century India.   London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Suleri, Sara.  The Rhetoric of English India.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Teltscher, Kate.  India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India 1600-1800.  Oxford: Oxford  University Press, 1995.

Tillotson, G. H. R.  The Artificial Empire: The Indian Landscapes of William Hodges.  Richmond:  Curzon Press, 2000.

Wilhelm, Friedrich and Rawlinson, H. G. "India and the Modern West." A Cultural History of  India.  Ed. A. L. Basham.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.  470-486.

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