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Modern Subjects/Colonial Texts

Hugh Clifford and the Discipline of English Literature in the Straits Settlements and Malaya 1895-1907

Philip Holden

Publication Year: 2000

Hugh Clifford’s position as both colonial official and writer sets him apart from such contemporaries. His career as colonial administrator in the Malaya and Straits Settlements spanned five decades, and his Malayan short stories, novels and sketches draw an elaborate series of parallels between the act of governing the colony and the discipline of writing a literary text. In Modern Subjects/Colonial Texts Philip Holden places Clifford’s writing in the context of the British "Forward Movement" in the Malay Peninsula, the evolving strategies of colonial governance, and their reception and reinscription by colonial elites. What makes Holden’s study especially interesting is his careful analysis not only of Clifford’s unique role as administrator and writer, but his probing of Clifford’s doubts about the colonial enterprise. The central contradiction of colonialism pervades his fiction. In its late nineteenth-century guise colonialism promised improvement and the uplifting of subject peoples, yet it could not admit them to a position of social equality since at that moment the basis for colonialism would vanish. Holden reveals how the experience as a colonial administrator made Clifford suspicious of the economic expediency which often underlies the rhetoric of mission and duty. Clifford also comes to have doubts about the success of masculinity as a practice of the regulation of the self. As the last chapter of Holden's study shows, such doubts and contradictions were exploited in the reception of Clifford's texts by colonial elites such as the Straits Chinese.

Published by: ELT Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-6

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Preface & Acknowledgements

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pp. vi-viii

Modern Subjects/Colonial Texts intervenes in a fiercely contested area of contemporary intellectual inquiry: fiction written under colonialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. From Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) onwards, much literary and cultural analysis has been applied to colonial discourse using the lens of postcolonial theory, ...

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Chapter 1. Theorizing Colonial Discipline in Malaya

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pp. 1-29

The house does not seem to be an English country house: the grounds are expansive, but a little too manicured: on Sundays they are filled with brides taking wedding photos, scattered like confetti on the grass. The walls have been recently painted a brilliant white, reflecting the light scattered back off the straits. ...

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Chapter 2. The Situation of Writing

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pp. 30-48

On 15 October 1929 the Straits Times of Singapore carried an article on Hugh Clifford's impending and unexpected departure from the colony, and his stepping down from the position of Governor of the Straits Settlements and Governor General of the Federated Malay States. ...

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Chapter 3. Trader, Dandy, Hero: Racial Masculinities

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pp. 49-68

In the preceding chapters, we have seen how gender, empire, and writing are linked in Clifford's work as technologies of control, the management of natural forces. We have also seen how, as a late-Victorian writer, Clifford expresses uneasiness regarding these forces which for earlier writers such as Kingsley and Carlye are benign. ...

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Chapter 4. Women's Place

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pp. 69-88

The preceding chapters have shown the persistent centrality of women to Clifford's technologies of governance. The shared secret of a woman's affection brings two men together in both "In the Heart of Kalamantan" and "Greater Love": deeds of empire are imagined as chivalric service performed for women. ...

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Chapter 5. Diseases, Pathologies, and Disciplining the Self

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pp. 89-113

"[I]n the colonial situation," writes Frantz Fanon, "going to see the doctor, the administrator, the constable or the mayor are identical moves."1 Fanon's vision of medicine as a central element of colonial governance, a fig-leaf of postrationalisation covering the brutal reality of colonial power, comes towards the climax of the anti-colonial struggle, ...

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Chapter 6. The Situation of Reading

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pp. 114-134

In 1905, at a club meeting in London, Clifford met a young doctor, a "fine-looking fellow"1 dedicated to the service of Empire. His name was W. Stewart, and he had been pondering, upon graduation, whether to join his father in a rural British practice or whether to venture further afield. ...

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Chapter 7. By Way of Conclusion

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pp. 135-138

The house is not, and never was, an English country house. From the busy street, coming out from the bustling, marble-clad air conditioning of shopping centres, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of it, up the road, past the waiting sentries, the curve in the drive, the lawns. A flagpole, and a flash of white stucco. ...


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pp. 139-170


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pp. 171-184


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pp. 185-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780944318669
Print-ISBN-10: 0944318134

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2000

OCLC Number: 606309095
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Modern Subjects/Colonial Texts

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Literature, Modern ‡x History and criticism.
  • Colonies in literature.
  • Straits Settlements -- In literature.
  • Politics and literature -- Straits Settlements.
  • Clifford, Hugh Charles, -- Sir, 1866-1941 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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