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Eastern Figures

Orient and Empire in British Writing

Douglas Kerr

Publication Year: 2008

Eastern Figures is a literary history with a difference. It examines British writing about the East – centred on India but radiating as far as Egypt and the Pacific – in the colonial and postcolonial period.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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1: Introduction

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pp. 1-7

This is a book of literary history which examines the relationship between British writing and Asian people and places in the colonial period and later, by considering a number of tropes in texts which form part of an attempt to represent and understand the East. The scope of my study embraces Lord Macaulay and Redmond O’Hanlon, but it draws its examples chiefly from work by British writers...

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2: Hinterland

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pp. 9-22

How should we enter the Hinterland? Step by step, circumspectly, if at all. An unsigned story entitled ‘Bubbling Well Road’, just 1500 words long, appeared in the Civil and Military Gazette, an English-language newspaper published in Lahore in British India, on 18 January 1888. It begins with a geographical orientation. ‘Look out on a large scale map the place where the...

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3: Conversions and Reversions

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pp. 23-52

Why did Kipling dislike missionaries? One kind of answer to this question is provided by David Gilmour: Kipling’s attitudes to religious missionaries were inherited from his father Lockwood Kipling, who ‘used to scoff at “warm evangelical gush” and “the pernicious nonsense purveyed by the ecclesiastical...

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4: Crowds

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pp. 53-78

One thing everyone knows about the East is that many people live in it. The Western imagination of the Orient has always been characterized, and tested, by large numbers — the fabulous treasures of the East, its vast distances, its epical disasters, above all its enormous populations. Many of the most vivid or mythic...

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5: Nature and Some Naturalists

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pp. 79-116

This chapter is about natural history, and figures of nature in Western writing about the East. In the first part I examine representations of the wilderness, how it is seen by those who enter it and how it returns their gaze, helping to constitute them as various kinds of subject — as explorers, writers, sportsmen, and...

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6: Contacts and Transgressions

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pp. 117-158

This chapter will consider some cases of the transformations that result from contact between Western people and Eastern places, and in particular the theme of transgression in the Orient, in the figure of stepping across from one world to another; cases of what seems to be a surrender, voluntary or not, to possession...

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7: Travellers to War

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pp. 159-189

As he went through the passport check at Heathrow airport, in the summer of 1973, at the beginning of a journey that would take him to the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, James Fenton glanced at the Sunday newspapers and saw that the poet W. H. Auden had died.1 The conjunction of the beginning of his journey...

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8: Figures of Rule

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pp. 191-221

The figure of rule is different in kind from figures like the jungle and the crowd, both more abstract and more polymorphous, for it is not so much a trope itself as the ability to trope, to bring alien material within the ambit of representation, comprehension, control and use. Hayden White has shown that narrative...

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9: Not Knowing the Oriental

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pp. 223-239

Three decades have passed since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978). In no trivial sense, we are all after Said. His work was never uncontested and continues to be controversial: Robert Irwin is only one of Said’s hostile critics, with his blistering attack on Orientalism’s representation of the scholarly work of...


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pp. 241-251


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pp. 253-258

E-ISBN-13: 9789888052233
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622099340

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 650604354
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Eastern Figures

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Subject Headings

  • Orient -- In literature.
  • Literature, Modern ‡x History and criticism.
  • English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism
  • English literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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