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Indian Angles

English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore

Mary Ellis Gibson

Publication Year: 2011

In Indian Angles, Mary Ellis Gibson provides a new historical approach to Indian English literature. Gibson shows that poetry, not fiction, was the dominant literary genre of Indian writing in English until 1860 and that poetry written in colonial situations can tell us as much or even more about figuration, multilingual literacies, and histories of nationalism than novels can. Gibson recreates the historical webs of affiliation and resistance that were experienced by writers in colonial India—writers of British, Indian, and mixed ethnicities.

Advancing new theoretical and historical paradigms for reading colonial literatures, Indian Angles makes accessible many writers heretofore neglected or virtually unknown. Gibson recovers texts by British women, by non-elite British men, and by persons who would, in the nineteenth century, have been called Eurasian. Her work traces the mutually constitutive history of English language poets from Sir William Jones to Toru Dutt and Rabindranath Tagore. Drawing on contemporary postcolonial theory, her work also provides new ways of thinking about British internal colonialism as its results were exported to South Asia.

In lucid and accessible prose, Gibson presents a new theoretical approach to colonial and postcolonial literatures.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-vii


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pp. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

A book long in the making gathers many debts. Many institutions and colleagues, my long-suffering family, and my friends here and in India have encouraged my work and My debts to scholars whom I do not know or have only met briefly, I acknowledge as often as I can in the chapters that follow. I want to express here my gratitude to several scholars who are pioneering new ways of understanding English language ...

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A Note on Names

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pp. xv-xv

Aside from the acknowledgments and mentions of contemporary cities (for which I follow current usage), I have followed the nineteenth-century convention in naming Indian cities. Thus, instead of using the names Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai, I refer—as the poets I discuss do—to Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, respectively...

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pp. 1-14

The Asiatic Society, Kolkata. A toxic blend of coal dust and diesel exhaust streaks the fa

Part One: Languages, Tropes, and Landscape in the Beginnings of English Language Poetry

One: Contact Poetics in Eighteenth-Century Calcutta: Sir William Jones, Sir John Horsford, and Anna Maria

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pp. 17-62

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Two: Bards and Sybils: Landscape, Gender, and the Culture of Dispute in the Poems of H. L. V. Derozio and Emma Roberts

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pp. 63-98

Sir William Jones, Sir John Horsford, and Anna Maria variously inhabited the poly-glot linguistic territory of northern India at the end of the eighteenth century. In the next generation, the tropes they introduced to English language poetry were filtered through British poets such as Robert Southey, Letitia Landon, Lord Byron, and Thomas Moore and displayed their longevity and their propensity to be remade across time and geo-cultural terrain. The two poets on whom I focus here reinterpreted...

Part Two: The Institutions of Colonial Mimesis, 1830–57

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Three: Books, Reading, and the Profession of Letters: David Lester Richardson and the Construction of a British Canon in India

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pp. 101-136

In 1824 an unknown poet, signing himself D.L.R., published a most unoriental effusion in a new London newspaper, the Oriental Herald. Evidently the editor needed to fill an empty half page, for the poet had much ambition and little to say. For no appreciable reason—other than the general popularity of the bardic trope in the wake of Tom Moore and Walter Scott—D.L.R. produced “The Warrior’s Farewell to the Family Bard.” His third, and concluding, stanza sounded a patriotic note...

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Four: Sighing, or Not, for Albion: Kasiprasad Ghosh, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, and Mary Carshore

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pp. 137-178

Consider the advice Thomas Carlyle gave to David Lester Richardson in 1838. In characteristic prophetic form yet with Scottish good sense, Carlyle rejected Richardson’s complaint that he had been “exiled” to India. “You feel yourself an exile in the East; but in the West too it is exile,” Carlyle told his correspondent. “I know not where...

Part Three: Nationalisms, Religion, and Aestheticism in the Late Nineteenth Century

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Five: From Christian Piety to Cosmopolitan Nationalisms: The Dutt Family Album and the Poems of Mary E. Leslie and Toru Dutt

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pp. 181-226

In 1824, Reginald Heber, then bishop of Calcutta, strolling on the banks of the Ganges, found himself in much the same place that Sir William Jones had occupied a generation earlier.1 In his perambulatory verse “Plassey-Plain,” Jones had turned the eighteenth-century prospect poem into gentle satire. His poem became at once a compliment to Lady Jones on her escape from danger, a botanical catalogue, and a send-up of literary and scientific scholarship. Heber also engaged the prospect poem...

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Six: Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Aestheticism in Fin-de-Si

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pp. 227-267

In the 1870s, writing in her garden at Baugmaree on the outskirts of Calcutta, Toru Dutt daringly claimed the lotus as the most beautiful flower—or poem—in Psyche’s garden, surpassing the lily or the rose, surpassing the flowers of English poetic tradition, the roses of Cowper and Tennyson, and surpassing even the roses of the Persian tradition. Yet the victory of the lotus, the image of purity, belied the poetic practices of attachment and detachment, identification and disidentification that subtended the...

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pp. 268-280

The images of Rabindranath Tagore singing the Irish Melodies to his astonished family and of the young Kipling able to speak a language he could not understand measure forms of unhomeliness that persisted over the long nineteenth century and were expressed with particular intensity in poetry. For poetry—its mix of classical and vernacular languages, its demands on choice of diction, and its formal...


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pp. 281-308


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pp. 309-324


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pp. 325-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443583
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419410

Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 728661030
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Indian Angles

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Subject Headings

  • Colonies in literature.
  • India In literature.
  • Anglo-Indian poetry -- History and criticism.
  • Indic poetry (English) -- History and criticism.
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