Said Culture & Imperialism corrected

Said Culture & Imperialism corrected - I N CHAPTER...

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Unformatted text preview: I N CHAPTER T'wo CONSOLIDATED VISION We called ourselves “Intrusive” as a band; for we meantto break into the accepted halls of English foreign policy, and build a new people in the East, despite‘ the rails laid down for us by our ancestors. T. E. LAWRENCE, The Seven Pillar: of Wisdom (I) Narrative and Social Space early everywhere in nineteenth— and early-twentieth-century British and French culture we find allusions to the facts of empire, but perhaps nowhere with more regularity and frequency than in the British novel. Taken together, these, allusions constitute what I have called a struc- ture of attitude and reference}; In Mansfield Par/e, which within Jane Austen’s work carefully defines the moral and social values informing her other novels, references to Sir Thomas, Bertram’s overseas possessions are threaded through; they give him his wealth, occasion his absences, fix his social status at home and abroad, and make possible his values, to which Fanny Price (and Austen herself) finally subscribes} If this is a novel about “ordination,” as Austen says, the right to colonial possessions helps directly to establish social order and moral priorities at home. Or again, Bertha Mason, Rochester’s deranged wife in 7am Eyre, is a West Indian, and also a threatening presence, confined to an attic room. Thackeray’s Joseph Sedley in Vanizjy Faz'ris an Indian nabob whose rambunctious behavior and excessive (perhaps undeserved) wealth is counterpointed with Becky’s finally unac- ceptable deviousness, which in turn is contrasted with Amelia’s propriety, suitably rewarded in the end; Jeseph Dobbin is seen at the end of the novel engaged serenely in writing a history of the Punjab. The good ship Rose in Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho! wanders through the Caribbean and South America. In Dickens’s Great Expectations, Abel Magwitch is the conVict trans— HON 1k into the n the East, century British 3f empire, but in the British called a struc- 1Jane Austen’s ling her other lossessions are , asences, fix his» 111168, to which ; a n0vel about ; helps directly ' again, Bertha lian, and also a Joseph Sedley- r and excessive ’5 finally un.ac-" ' :lia’s propriety, id of the novel od ship Rose in man and South ‘ I : convict trans- 7 Narrative and Social Space 63 ported to Australia whose wealth—conveniently removed from Pip’s tri— umphs as a provincial lad flourishing in‘London in the guise of a gentle- man—ironically makes possible the great expectations Pip entertains. In many other Dickens novels businessmen have connections With the empire, Dombey and Quilp being two noteworthy examples. For‘Disraeli’s T aaerea’ and Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, the East is partly a habitat for native peoples (or immigrant European populations), but also partly incorporated under the sway of empire. Henryjames’s Ralph Touchett in Portrait of a Lady travels in Algeria and Egypt. And when we come to Kipling, Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rider Haggard, R. L. Stevenson, George Orwell, Joyce Cary, E. M. Forster, and T. E. Lawrence, the empire is everywhere a crucial setting. The situation in France was different, insofar as the French imperial vocation during the early nineteenth century was different from England’s, buttressed as it was by the continuity and stability of the English'polity itself: The reverses of policy, losses of colonies, insecurity of possession, and shifts in philosophy that France suffered during the Revolution and the Napole— onic era meant that its empire had a less secure identity and presence in French culture. In Chateaubriand and Lamartine one hears the rhetoric of imperial grandeur; and in painting, in historical and philological writing, in music and theater one has an often vivid apprehension of France’s outlying possessions. But in the culture at large—until after the middle of the cen— tury—there is rarely that weighty, almost philosophical sensexof imperial mission that one finds in Britain. _ There is also a dense body of American writing, contemporary with this British and French work, which shows a peculiarly acute imperial cast, even though paradoxically its ferocious anti-colonialism, directed at the Old World, is central to it. One thinks, for example, of the Puritan “errand into the wilderness” and, later, of that extraordinarily obsessive concern in Cooper, Twain, Melville, and others with United States expansion west—. ward, along with the wholesale colonization and destruction of native Amer— ican life (as memorably studied by Richard Slotkin, Patricia Limerick, and Michael Paul Rogin);‘ an imperial motif emerges to rival the European one. (In Chapter Four of this book I shall deal with other and more recent aspects of the United States in its late—twentieth-century imperial form.) As a reference, as a point of definition, as an easily assumed place of travel, wealth, and service, the empire functions for much of the European nine— teenth century as a codified, if only marginally visible, presence in fiction, very much like the servants in grand households and in novels, whose work is taken for granted but scarcely ever more than named, rarely studied (though Bruce Robbins has recently written on them),2 or given density. To Cite another intriguing analogue, imperial possessions are as usefully there, 64 CONSOLIDATED VISION anonymous and collective, as the outcast populations (analyzed by Gareth Stedman jones)3 of transient workers, part—time employees, seasonal arti— sans; their existence always counts, though their names and identities do not, they are profitable without being fully there. This is a literary equivalent, in Eric Wolf’s somewhat self—congratulatory words, of “people wighout His— A tory,”“ people on whom the economy and polity sustained by empirede: pend, but whose reality has not historically or culturally required attention. In all of these instances the facts of empire are associated with sustained possession, with far—flung and sometimes unknown spaces, with eccentric or unacceptable human beings, with fortune—enhancing or fantasized activities like emigration, money—making, and sexual adventure. Disgraced younger sons are sent off to the colonies, shabby older relatives go there to try, to recoup lost fortunes (as in Balzac’s La Cousins Bette), enterprising young travellers go there to sow wild oats and to collect exotica, The colonial territories aredrealmsof possibility, and they have always been associated withwthefirealistic novel. Robinson Crusoe is virtually unthinkable without the colonizing mission that permits him to create a new world of his own in the distant reaches of the African, Pacific, and Atlantic wilderness. But most of the great nineteenth—century realistic novelists are less assertive about colonial rule and possessions than either Defoe or late writers like Conrad and Kipling, during whose time great electoral reform and mass participa— tion in politics meant that imperial competition became a more intrusive domestic topic. In the closing year of the nineteenth century, with the scramble for Africa, the consolidation of the F renchimperial Union, the American annexation of the Philippines, and British rule in the Indian \l/ subcontinent at its height, empire was a universal concern. 1M~mew.w..,.~.ww.n .4..w.m...,_.tw, W“ What I should likeito‘hwot‘éwifls‘ihjt't-h—ese colonial and imperial realities are overlooked in criticism that has otherwise been extraordinarily thorough and resourceful in finding themes to discuss. The relatively few writers and critics who discuss the relationship between culture and empire—among them Martin Green, Molly Mahood, John McClure, and, in particular, Patrick Brantlinger—have made excellent contributions, but their mode is essentially narrative and descriptive—pointing out the presence of themes, ' the importance of certain historical conjunctures, the influence or persis- tence of ideas about imperialism—and they cover huge amounts of mate- rial.5 In almost all cases they write critically of imperialism, of that way1 of life that William Appleman Williams describes as being compatible with all sorts of other ideological persuasions, even antinomian ones, so that during the nineteenth century “imperial outreach made it necessary to develop an appropriate ideology” in alliance with military, economic, and political methods. These made it possible to “preserve and extend the empire with- .«awnMW..WWW,MWNWWWWWWWWVWWWWW,W.Nn;msmmmwWWWWMWNWMMW... ,s , out in t duct poli diff: 9.9!!“ G01 . Mm thes out bee] and sim] bool pert ism, all, 1 colo migfi asso affet ther Socz} inte; alisr lute ordt ougl muc tant imp visit CXtE haP] one a dc Eng 80 CONSOLIDATED VISION to the outlying world. The capacity to represent, portray, characterize, and depict is not easily available to just any member of just any society; more- 0ver, the “what” and “how” in the representation of “things,” while allowing for considerable individual freedom, are circumscribed and socially regu— lated. We have become very aware in recent years of the constraints upon the cultural representation of women, and the pressures that go. into the created representations of inferior classes and races. In all these areas— gender, class, and race—criticism has correctly focussed upon the institu- tional forces in modern Western societies that shape and set limits on the representation of what are considered essentially subordinate beings; thus representation itself has been characterized as keeping the subordinate sub— ordinate, the inferior inferior. (II) t i I “W fame Austen and Empire V S 7 e are on solid ground with V. G. Kiernan when he says that “em— ' pires must have a mould of ideas or conditioned reflexes to flow into, and youthful nations dream of a great place in the world as young men dream of fame and fortunes.”29 It is, as I have been saying throughout, too simple and reductive to argue that everything in European or American culture therefore prepares for or consolidates the grand idea of empire. It is also, however, historically inaccurate to ignore those tendencies—whether in narrative, political theory, or pictorial technique—that enabled, encour- aged, and otherwise assured the West’s readinessto assume and enjoy the eXperienc’eflof empire. If there was cultural resistance to the notion of an imperial mission, there was not much support for that resistance in the main departments of cultural thought. Liberal though he was,]ohn Stuart Mill— as a telling case in point—could still say, “The sacred duties which civilized nations owe to the independence and nationality of each other, are not binding'towards those to whom nationality and independence are certain evil, or at best a questionable good.” Ideas like this were not original with Mill; they were already current in the English subjugation of Ireland during the sixteenth century and, as Nicholas Canny has persuasively demon— strated, were equally useful in the ideology 'of English colonization in the Americasfi‘félmost all colonial schemes begin with an assumption of native backwardness and general inadequacy to be independent, “equal,” and fit} l l i i i l 'ize, and 7; more— Illowing ly regu— ItS upon into the areas-— institu- s on the igs; thus are sub— rat “em— ; to flow ung men rout, too tmerican pire. It is -whether encour— :njoy the on of an the main rt Mill—- civilized , are not e certain inal with [(1 during demon- on in the of native ” and fit] ». __.._,_.. »~,__.-_,«- “want. MM. Fame Austen and Empire 81 Why that should be so, why sacred obligation on one front should not be binding on another, why rights accepted in one may be denied in another, are questions best understood in the terms of a culture well—grounded in moral, economic, and even metaphysical norms designed to approve a satisfying local, that is European, order and to permit the abrogation of the right to a similar order a road. Such a statement may appear prepostemUS or extreme. In fact, it formulates the connection between Europe’s well— being and cultural identity on the one hand and, on the other, the subjuga- tion of imperial realms overseas rather too fastidiously and circumspectly. Part of our difliculty today in accepting any connection at all is that we tend to reduce this complicated matter to an apparently simple causal one, which in turn produces a rhetoric of blame and defensiveness. I am not saying that the major factor in early European culture was that it caused late—nineteenth— century imperialism, and I am not implying that all the problems of the formerly colonial world should be blamed on Europe. I am saying, however, that European culture often, if not always, characterized itself in such a way as simultaneously to validate its own preferences while also advocating those preferences in conjunction with distant imperial rule. Mill certainly did: he always recommended that India not be given independence. When for vari— ous reasons imperial rule concerned Europe more intensely after 1880, this schizophrenic habit became useful. The first thing to be done now is more or less to jettison simple causality in thinking through the relationship between Europe and the non—European world, and lessening the hold on our thought of the equally simple temporal sequence. We must not admit any notion, for instance, that proposes to show that Wordsworth, Austen, or Coleridge, because they wrote byfire 1857, actually caused the establishment of formal British governmental-Jule over India afier 1857. We should try to discern instead a counterpoint between overt patterns in British writing about Britain and representations of the world beyond the British,_,lsles. The inherent mode for this counterpoint is not temporal but Spatialé How do writers in the period before the great age of explicit, programmatic” colonial expansion—the “scramble fogAfrica,” say—situate and see themselves and their work in the larger world‘PViW e shall find them using striking but careful strategies, many of them derived from expected‘sonrt'eSSpositive “idea‘s 6f"’ho‘in'i‘ef,"“of’a’nation"and-itsmlanguage, of proper order, good behavior, moral values. .. But positige ideas of this sort do more than validate “our” world. They also tend td devalue gother worlds and,lperhaps more significantly from a retrospective point of View, they do not prevent or inhibit or give resistance to horrendously unattractiVe imperialist practices. No, cultural formsdike the novel or the opera do not cause people to go out and imperialize— 82 CONSOLIDATED VISION Carlyle did not drive Rhodes directly, and he certainly cannot be “blamed” for the problems in today’s southern Africa—but it is genuinely troubling to see how little Britain’s great humanistic ideas, institutions, and monuments, which weustill celebrate as having the power ahistorically to command our approval, how little they stand in the way of the accelerating imperial processte are entitled to ask how this body of humanistic ideas cofAexisted so comibrtably with imperialism, and why—until the resistance to imperial— ism in the imperial domain, among Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, devel— oped——there was little significant opposition or deterrence to empire at home. Perhaps the custom of distinguishing “our” home and order from “theirs” grew into a harsh political rule for accumulating more of “them” to rule, study, and subordinate. In the great, humane ideas and values promul— gated by mainstream European culture, we,have precisely that “mould of ideas or conditioned reflexes” of which Kiernan speaks, into which the whole business of empire later flowed. . The extent to which these ideas are actually invested in geographical distinctions between real places is the subject of Raymond Williams’s richest book, The County and the City. His argument concerning the interplay be— tween rural and urban places in England admits of the most extraordinary transformations—from the pastoral populism of Langland, through Ben Jonson’s country-house poems and the novels of Dickens’s London, right up to visions of the metropolis in twentieth—century literature. Mainly, of course, the bOOk is about how English culture has dealt with land, its possession, imagination, and organization. And while he does address the export of England to the colonies, Williams does so, as I suggested earlier, in a less focussed way and less expansively than the practice actually war- rants. Near the end of The Cqum‘zy and time Cir)! he volunteers that “from at least “the mid—nineteenth century, and with important instances earlier, there was this larger context [the relationship between England and the colonies, whose effects on the English imagination “have gone deeper than can easily be traced”] within which every idea and every image was con— sciously and unconsciously affected.” He goes on quickly to cite “the idea of emigration to the colonies” as one such image prevailing in various novels by Dickens, the Brontés, Gaskell, and rightly shows that “new rural socie- ties,” all 'of them colonial, enter the imaginative metropolitan economy of English literature via Kipling, early Orwell, Maugham. After 1880 there comes a “dramatic extension of landscape and social relations”: this corre- sponds more or less exactly with the great age of empire.31 It is dangerous to disagree with Williams, yet I would vepmre to say that if one began to look for something like an imperial map of the world in English literature, it would turn up with amazing insistence and frequency 't J {i 'i i a ‘l i i ,. l i l re in ct la ei St p1 oi p( p( e; l.( be “blamed” I troubling to . monuments, :ommand our ting imperial :as co—existed e to impErial— ricans, devel— to empire at d order from : of“them” to llues promul— iat “mould of to which the geographical liams’s richest interplay be- extraordinary through Ben idon, right up e. Mainly, of with land, its :3 address the gested earlier, actually war— that “from at :ances earlier, gland and the e deeper than rage was con- cite “the idea various novels w rural socie— n economy of ter 1880 there IS”: this corre- ure to say that’ ’the world in and frequency 711mg Aurten and Empire 83 I : well before the mid—nineteenth century. And turn up not only with the inert regularity suggesting something taken for granted, but—more interest— ingly—threaded through, forming a vital part of the texture of linguistic and cultural practice. There were established English offshore interests in Ire— land, America, the Caribbean, and Asia from the sixteenth century on, and even a quick inventory reveals poets, philosophers, historians, dramatists, statesmen, novelists, travel writers, chroniclers, soldiers, and fabulists who prized, cared for, and traced these interests with continuing concern. (Much of this is well discussed by Peter Hulme in Colonial Encoum‘mr.)32 Similar points may be made for France, Spain, and Portugal, not only as overseas powers in their own right, but as competitors with the British. How can we examine these interests at work in modern England before the age of empire, i.e., during the period between 1800 and 1870? We would do well to follow Williams’s lead, and look first at that period of crisis following upon England’s wide-scale land enclosureat the end of the eighteenth century. The old organic rural communities were dissolved and new ones forged under the impulse of parliamentary activity, industrial— ization, and demographic dislocation, but there also occurreda new process of relocating England (and in France, France) within a much larger circle of the world map. During the first half of the eighteenth century, Anglo—French competition in North America and India was intense; in the second half there were numerous Violent encounters between England and France in the Americas, the Caribbean, and the Levant, and of course in Europe itself. The major pre—Romantic literature in France and England contains a constant stream of references to the overseas dominions: one thinks not only of various Encyclopedists, the Abbé Raynal, de Brosses, and Volney, but also of Edmund Burke, Beckford, Gibbon, Johnson, and William Jones. In 1902]. A. Hobson described imperialism as the expansion of nationality, implying that the process was understandable mainly by considering expan— sion as the more important of the two terms, since “nationality” was a fully formed, fixed quantity,33 whereas a century before it was still in the process of being firmed, at home and abroad as well. In Playrz'cr and Politicr (1887) Walter Bagehot speaks with extraordinary relevance of “nation-making.” Between France and Britain in the late eighteenth century there were two contests: the battle for strategic gains abroad—in India, the Nile delta, the Western Hemisphere—-and the battle for a triumphant nationality. Both battles con— trast “Englishness” with “the French,” and no matter how intimate and closeted the supposed English or French “essence” appears to be, it was almost always thought of as being (as opposed to already) made, and being fought out with the other great competitor. Thackeray’s Becky Sharp, for example, is as much an upstart as she is because of her half—French heritage. 84 CONSOLIDATED, VISION Earlier in the century, the upright abolitionist posture of Wilberforce and his ' allies developed partly out of a desire to make life harder for French \ ‘5 t he emon in the Antillesjiwwwwmwmmw r V‘ g Y W m ""“‘”*"Tli"e’"§é‘"éi§hsrderations suddenly provide a fascinatingly expanded dimen— sion to Mamfield Park (1814), the most explicit in its ideological and moral affirmations ofAusten’s novels. Williams once again is in general dead right: Austen’s novels express an “attainable, quality of life,” in money and prop— erty acquired, moral discriminations made, the right choices put in place, the correct “improvements” implemented, the finely nuanced language affirmed and classified. Yet, Williams continues, ' “MM What [Cobbett] names, riding past on the road, are classesjane Austen, from inside the houses, can never see that, for all the intricacy of her social description. All her discrimination is, understandably, internal and exclusive. She is concerned with the conduct of people who, in the complications of improvement, are repeatedly trying to make them— selves into a class. But where only one class is seen, no classes are seen.” As a general description of how Austen manages to elevate certain “moral discriminations” into “an independent value,” this is excellent. Where Mam- field PM]? is concerned, however, a good deal more needs to be said, giving greater explicitness and width to Williams’s survey. Perhaps then Austen, and indeed, pre—imperialist novels generally, will appear to be more impli— cated in the rationale for imperialist expansion than at first sight they have been. After Lukacs and Proust, we have become so accustomed to thinking of the novel’s plot and structure as constituted mainly by temporality that we have overlooked the function of space, geography, and location. For it is not only the very young Stephen Dedalus, but every other young protagonist before him as well, who sees himself in a widening spiral at home, in Ireland, in the world. Like many other novels, Mansfield Par/e is very precisely about a series of both small and large dislocations and relocations in space that occur before, at the end of the novel, Fanny Price, the niece, becomes the spiritual mistress of Mansfield Park. And that place itself is located by Austen at the center of an arc of interests and concerns spanning the hemisphere, two major seas, and" four continents. As in Austen’s other novel‘s, the central group that finally emerges with marriage and property “ordained” is not based exclusively upon blood. Her novel enacts the disaffiliation (in the literal sense) of some members of a family, and the afl‘iliation between others and one or two chosen and tested ...
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Said Culture & Imperialism corrected - I N CHAPTER...

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