Angelia Poon examines how British colonial authority in the nineteenth century was predicated on its being rendered in ways that were recognizably 'English'. Reading a range of texts by authors that include Charlotte BrontÃ«, Mary Seacole, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and H. Rider Haggard, Enacting Englishness in the Victorian Period focuses on the strategies - narrative, illustrative, and rhetorical - used to perform English subjectivity during the time of the British Empire. Characterising these performances, which ranged from the playful, ironic, and fantastical to the morally serious and determinedly didactic, was an emphasis on the corporeal body as not only gendered, racialised, and classed, but as (in)visible, desiring, bound in particular ways to space, and marked by certain physical stylizations and ways of thinking. As she shines a light on the English subject in the act of being and becoming, Poon casts new light on the changing historical circumstances and discontinuities in the performances of Englishness to disclose both the normative power of colonial authority as well as the possibilities for resistance.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; English homebodies: the politics of spectacle and domesticity in mid-century Victorian conduct literature and Jane Eyre; Comic acts of (be)longing: performing Englishness in Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands; Seeing double: performing English identity and imperial duty in Emily Eden's Up the Country and Harriet Martineau's British Rule in India; Charles Dickens and the policing of the English body; Imperial fantasies and the politics of reproducing Englishness: Henry Rider Haggard's Allan Quartermain; Epilogue; Works cited; Index.
’Angela Poon's new volume advances an intelligent, complex argument about the crafting of "Englishness" in multiple Victorian texts and colonial sites... I enjoyed the experience of reading Enacting Englishness and recommend it for anyone who is thinking seriously about colonialism or Englishness in the most aggressive era of British imperialism. Poon is a skilled practitioner of literary and cultural theory, and her nuanced readings leave me feeling eager to see more work from her in the future.’ Victorian Studies '[Enacting Englishness] is clearly coherent and relevant and it obeys a well-documented argument debunking Victorian myths and truths all over the empire at its apex, both culturally and physically.' Cercles