- The Romance of the New World: Gender and the Literary Formations of English Colonialism (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 18, Number 2, January 2001
- pp. 193-195
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- Additional Information
Reviews 193 A grateful acknowledgement to Professor Sinclair's pioneering enterprise in manuscript studies inAustralia loses its impact in an addendum, and the repetition there ofthe names ofselected individuals w h o were already cited in the entries is fulsome. The references toAlbinia de la Mare seem superfluous when that scholar's published work is not mentioned under entry 18 and is secondary in 39. The exhibition itselfwas very well arranged and most elegantly displayed. To all accounts, public attendance exceeded expectations. It was held in conjunction with 'Revealing the Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine'. Peter Rolfe Monks-Saint-Clair Canberra Linton, Joan Pong, The Romance of the New World: Gender and the Literary Formations of English Colonialism (Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 27), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998; cloth; pp.xii, 268; R R P $AU110. This stimulating if somewhat over-theorised book is an engagement with seve themes that are deemed to have somehow interlocked for the English in their early colonial period in North America/the N e w World over a period of 60 years from the middle of the sixteenth century. As befits the series in which it appears, this book explores the interplay between popular romances and colonial narratives, seeing this as an aspect of social, economic, political and cultural history, while at the same time endeavouring to reconstruct attitudes to gender in that same period. In particular, the focus is concerned with the rise of a middle-class culture in Elizabethan England, a movement beyond the division of society in the 'three or four principal groups or ranks according to birth, land, money and education', one largely caused by the number and social range of those now venturing in commercial and colonial enterprises. The societal and cultural changes are paralleled by the irreversible movement on the literary scene, one away from mediaeval romances, with their chivalric quests and that 'adventure' to a new dynamic adventure overseas, one created for narrative as well as commerce by the invention of the 'New World'. These two interlocking movements are explored by a probing of the 'popular genres' discourse in Todorov's phrase, together with a consideration of 194 Reviews the sequence of three main phases in the English colonial enterprise in the New World - piracy and gold-hunting in the Spanish Caribbean, attempts at trade with the Indians, and the discovery and early settlement ofVirginia. Throughout all of this there runs a sexual or gender-like co-theme, that of the Englishman venturing in the hopes - sequentially - of spoil, profit or harvest, all commercial activities arising from a taken or domesticated rich and feminized land. And in delineating a successful career like that of his hero in Jack ofNewberry (1597), Thomas Deloney shapes and promulgates a new class identity, as well as re-defining his gender role, a powerful ideal of domestic economy that is simultaneously familial and national. Many of these themes are deemed by Joan Pong Linton to coalesce in Shakepeare's The Tempest, where 'a failed attempt by Caliban to rape Miranda constitutes the event on which a power struggle is ratified' (p. 154). For Miranda's attempt to imprint him with her cultural values and meanings - taught to her by her father - comes to mirror his fantasy of begetting copies of himself upon her. This last main chapter, the seventh, is concerned with the broad theme of rape, with 'the art and smart of Virginian husbandry'. And this and the other themes coalesce in a last section, one entitled 'Coda: the masks ofPocahontas', a focusing on the various tropes of colonial domesticity in the N e w World and on the traveller, also 'the husband w h o travels abroad to enrich home and country'(p. 185). In these Virginian narratives the quintessential husband was John Rolfe, who not only married Pocahontas but was successful at propagating tobacco. There then follows (pp. 186-91) a sharp focus on the movement of history into myth, as the woman present at the events is continually 'ventriloquised by dominant colonial and cultural interests'(p. 186). The core ofthewriter's exasperation at centuries of distortion is to be found in her own...