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Reviews Ian Baucom, Out ofPUce: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999. ? + 249. "Was the empire, " Baucom asks, " the domain of England's mastery ofthe globe or the territory ofthe loss of Englishness?" He opens his exploration ofthis question, which will range from midVictorian through to fully contemporary topics, with an engaging analysis of the British Nationality Act of 1981. This act, in Baucom's view, codifies the crucial late-twentieth-century adjustment in the understanding of English identity. Formerly a question oflocation (where was one born?), the right to claim status as a British citizen becomes henceforth a question ofgenealogy (to whom was one born?); race, after 1981, takes precedent over place. Baucom does not, however, present the 1981 Act exclusively as rupture. Indeed, his book undertakes to demonstrate that English identity has been, since Britain's accession to the status ofa global imperial power, complexly articulated. Indeed, Baucom argues Englishness, ifone examines the imperial history ofthat idea, is always "continuously discontinuous with what it was a moment ago and what it is about to become" (163). Beginning with Ruskin, perhaps the first thinker to attempt to forge an architectural, place-oriented analysis of national identity, and concluding with the fantastic taxonomy and cartography Rushdie brings to bear upon postcolonial Englishness, the book engages with an admirable diversity oftopics within literary and cultural studies. It discovers discourses of identity (typically fissured by ambivalencies) in the hybridized imperial gothic of Bombay's Victoria Terminus, in the touristic deployment ofthe sites and monuments ofthe Victorian Review (2001 ) 121 Reviews 1857 "Indian Mutiny," in celebratory depictions of English country houses, in the much-exported game—and field—of cricket. The literary topics include, in addition to those already mentioned, Wordsworth , Thomas Hughes, Kipling, Rhys, Forster, C. L. R. James and Naipaul. For those of us concerned with developing a critical practice that bridges between literary and cultural studies, Out ofPUce may, I think provide and instructive model. To begin with, the use of critical theory entirely satisfies contemporary academic expectations as regards sophistication and breadth of knowledge; yet, it manifests an engagingly heteroclitic attitude on the part ofthe author. Raymond Williams and Benedict Anderson are present (as they must be), but the book's arguments are perhaps more deeply, more intimately informed by less obvious guides such as Benjamin (the delicious adjective "auratic" occurs frequently) and Bourdieu. The work also offers various, carefully selected, enlightening applications of the most prominent contemporary critics in the postcolonial field: Bhabha, Spivak, Suleri, de Certeau, and Gilroy. Baucom maintains, however, a carefully measured relationship with contemporary critical and theoretical trends; his scholarship is responsible rather than pious. He does not facilely affirm the triumph of agency over the disciplinary forces emerging within broadly based social and discursive formations ; while he offers challenges to discourses of"authenticity," he does not neglect to observe that the notion has, enduringly, "a very real affective appeal" (188) — which criticism must acknowledge and take into account. More crucially, however, Baucom's movements back and forth between his literature and his non-literary sites ofcultural critique never (or at least very rarely) seem arbitrary. These movements give the impression rather ofbeing driven by an unflagging desire to remain true to the demands ofsearching, rigorous, duly comprehensive scholarship. Consistently, Baucom reads literature against other material manifestations ofsocial and cultural process, striving to test his sites ofinquiry each against the others, to delineate nuances and subtleties —= and to avoid the too-simple, too-straightforward 1 22volume 26 number 2 Reviews misrepresentations that attend the formula and the rule. Baucom, to go to the core ofthe issue, does not privilege literature unthinkingly , does not assume that literary texts can and do speak all that need be spoken about cultural realities. Literature, more briefly, is a (not the) medium ofcultural manifestation. The author therefore establishes a dynamic relation between Ruskin's writings and the actuality ofimperial architecture (such as the previously mentioned Bombay Terminus); he reads James's Beyonda Boundary and Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays in the light ofthe careers ofArnold ofRugby and W. G. Grace (the oh-so-fortunately named, nineteenthcentury cricket-sensation); he finds in The Satanic Verses...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 121-123
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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