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The “Politically Correct Memsahib”: Performing Englishness in Select Anglo-Indian Advice Manuals

S. Vimala, M.G.R. College, Hosur, India

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Abstract

Examining select Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857and during the ‘high imperialism’ period of the British Raj, the essay proposes that this cultural artefact served the purpose of constructing and naturalizing the English Memsahibs’ gendered racial identity. By reiterating the performance of gender, class and race imperatives to construct a unique identity prerequisite for the Anglo-Indian community as well as the Indian colony, these texts aimed at the crystallization of this identity that will strengthen the idea of the British Raj. Such reiteration- apart from revealing the imperial anxiety of the subversion of the Memsahib identity- were useful to caution the English women new to the colonial environment.  Reading these Anglo-Indian advice manuals produced for the consumption of the Anglo-Indian community, what the essay further proposes is that the performance of gendered-racial identity of the English women in India constituted not only the governance of their bodies and the Anglo-Indian spaces, but also their management of travel and material consumption including food.  Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.   

Tipu Sultan and the Politics of Representation in Three 19th Century English novels

Ayusman Chakraborty, Jadavpur University, India

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 Abstract

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the native state of Mysore. His fierce opposition to British rule in India earned him unrivalled notoriety in England. Colonial writings usually portray him as a cruel tyrant who tortured Indians and Englishmen alike. This article studies the representation of Tipu Sultan in three nineteenth century English novels – The Surgeon’s Daughter by Sir Walter Scott, Tippoo Sultaun: A Tale of the Mysore Wars by Captain Meadows Taylor, and The Tiger of Mysore by G. A. Henty . In these works, Tipu is painted in an extremely unfavourable light. Arguing that the politics of imperialism influences such representations, this article tries to show how the depiction of Tipu as a monstrous villain served to justify British rule in India. These novels seem to suggest that the British deserve credit for rescuing Indians from such egregious villain. The article also focuses on politicization of Tipu’s dead body. Colonial art and literature constantly return to the scene where Tipu’s body is discovered by his enemies. This article argues that colonial imagination converts Tipu’s corpse to a ‘grisly trophy’ which becomes a sign of British triumph over Oriental despotism.

The Semiotics of Violence: Reading Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Debamitra Kar, Women’s College, Calcutta, India

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Abstract

This paper attempts a reading of Italo Calvino’s novel, The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1969) from a postmodern perspective. The novel has always been seen as structuralist experimentation, particularly because it was written at a time when Calvino was associated with the OULIPO, the group of the French philosophers like Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes and others. The paper argues that the simultaneous reading of the words in the text and pictures in the margin, challenges the very practice and method of reading. The novel suggests that it can be read as a card game, a game that accentuates deferral and plurality of meaning. These conflicting readings create the semiotics of violence, which again is reflected in the theme of the stories. The paper cites example of three stories which show that the violence of language is codified as the violence of the feminine on the masculine, arguing that the feminine challenges the rules, laws, and structures of language as well as life and destroys things that adheres to any strict binary form. The conflict between the rule of the Father and the lawlessness of the Mother leads to no higher synthesis—it ends in violence that refuses all routes of communication or meaning.

Biafra and the Aesthetics of Closure in the Third Generation Nigerian Novel

Madhu Krishnan, the University of Nottingham, UK

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 Abstract

This paper examines the role of closure, or the lack thereof, in four contemporary Nigerian novels. Representative of the third wave of Nigerian literature, these narratives each deals with themes of trauma, identity and community affiliation in postcolonial Africa, highlighting the fractured and displaced nation-state as the site of a radical aporia between individual fulfillment and communal harmony. This article postulates that the lack of closure on the level of thematic content and characterization in these novels is an aesthetic condition of third generation Nigerian literature as it strives to narrativize the openness and undecidability of the postcolonial condition and the fundamental instability of history and identity-formation in contemporary Africa.

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