Abstract

Abstract:

This article reads Charlotte Smith's The Story of Henrietta and Sophia Lee's The Recess as gothic texts which problematically entangle race, gender, and history in their imagination of British colonialism. Both works figure colonial Jamaica and its inhabitants as mirror images of Britain's own gothic past and thus place the colonial present backwards in historical time. This infantile and uncivilized colonial "past" serves as the darkened reflection of the eighteenth-century British present, seen as a matured and advanced stage of history and humanity. Using Jacques Lacan's formulation of the mirror stage as a retroactive fantasy, this process of mirroring, what I call the colonial mirror, is in fact a racialized fantasy rooted in contemporary anxieties pervading colonial occupation. Though Henrietta and The Recess have often been read as radically critiquing the conditions women faced in the British eighteenth century, the colonial mirror reveals the limits of their gendered critiques in its racist images of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans, particularly Black women. Ultimately, these gothic texts naturalize the links between race, gender, and history in such a way that erases their origins in colonial fantasy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0201
Print ISSN
0193-5380
Pages
pp. 313-333
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-12
Open Access
No
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