'There is always the Other side, always.'(Rhys 99)
'[P]ower cannot be equated with economic or state power, its sites of activity and hence of resistance, are in the micro-politics of daily life.' (Gallagher 43)
here are no mute spaces. As an examination of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (1814), Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847) and Wilkie Collin's The Moonstone (1868) reveal, stories, political beliefs, and unconsciously held attitudes permeate physical spaces and the way novels depict them. I therefore propose to examine Mansfield Park, Thornfield Hall and the Verinder Estate in order to explain how their authors depict the English country-house an an complex, even discordant embodiment of imagined community, imperialism, domesticity, and their interrelations. The triple loci will be studied to interrogate the ways in which textual and ideological configurations of novels which depict the Orient, are closely linked to attitudes of bourgeois domesticity. I hope to show that the state apparatus is not the only vector of power; rather it rests on a series of small-scale vectors of power which must be examined, for the phenomenon of Orientalism to be understood in its full complexity.
I will use the paradigms of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to examine the nexus between domestic space, the feminine subject, and imperial ideology. My primary aim is to contest a spate of postcolonial readings which insist that the spatial dynamics of imperial novels unambiguously glorify colonialism. The contention is that elements within the novelistic field are polyvalent, as each space is shaped by a multiplicity of repressive/expressive apparatuses. This undermines the concept of a monolithic hegemony and shows how the hegemonic formation 'includes a proliferation of very diverse elements' (Lacau 142).
Imperial expansionism was a predominant concern during the long nineteenth century. The scramble for Africa, the consolidation of the French Imperial Union, the American annexation of Philippines, and British rule in India made sure that the empire was a universal concern. England's imperial project was based on a factitious binary between the Self and the Other — in spatial terms, this translated into a rejection of preceding significations, de-territorialisation of the colonies and subsequent re-territorialisation, according to the imperial administration. The global spatial integration initiated by colonialism led to a homogenisation of the Orient, thereby paving way for the proliferation of stereotypes which valorised the imperial ethic at the cost of the subaltern .
Given the centrality of the Orient to the British imagination during the nineteenth century, it is only inevitable that the expressive repertoire of the novelists under consideration derived from popular sources which disseminated (mis)information about the Oriental Other. The Orient became a popular novelistic chronotope, which allowed for a fictional reinscription of history. It is the collusion of geography and history, both constitutive of national discourses, which lends these novels their unique discursive bent.
This continuum which exists between the text, social reality, spatial location(s) and the author's subject position is evident in Austen's Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas Bertram is a slave owner at a time when slavery was a highly controversial issue. The last decades of eighteenth century saw the rise of the Abolitionist movement in Britain — the movement garnered support from a number of denominational groups such as the Swedenborgians, Quakers, Baptists and Methodists. Quakers such as Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp; parliamentarians Sir Cecil Wray, Charles James Fox and William Pitt the Younger; and Evangelical William Wilberforce actively opposed the practice of slavery. In 1783 Dr. Beilby Porteus issued a call to the Church of England to cease its involvement in slave trade and improve the conditions of Afro-Caribbean slaves. Slave trade in British colonies was abolished on the 25th March 1807, and it became illegal to carry slaves in British ships.
Imagined Geographies: Representations of the Orient in Three Nineteenth-Century Novels
- 'I love to hear my uncle talk of the West Indies . . . it entertains me': Jane Austen's negotiation with slavery in Mansfield Park
- 'She bit me . . . like a tigress': Charlotte Brontë's construction of the 'Other' in Jane Eyre
- Collins's representation of the 'cursed Indian jewel': Orientalism in the sensation novel
- Bibliography of Works Consulted
- The Moonstone and British India
- Collins's "A Sermon for Sepoys"
- The British Empire: An Introduction
- The British Empire: An Overview
- Victorian India: An Overview
Austen, Jane. Emma. Ed. James Kinsley. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.
--- Mansfield Park. Ed. Dr. Jan Littlewood. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 2002.
--- Sense and Sensibility. Ed. Margaret Anne Doody. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.k
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. Lady Audley's Secret. Ed. Norman Donaldson. New York: Dover,1974.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Michael Mason. London: Penguin, 1996.
Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Ed. David Blair. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1999.
Gallagher, Catherine. 'Marxism and New Historicism' .The New Historicism. Ed. H. Aram Veeser. London: Routledge, 1989: 37-48.
Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Practice. London: Verso, 1985.
Last modified 19 July 2007