Writing under the Raj: Gender, Race, and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination, 1830-1947

By Nancy L. Paxton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Hostage to History
THE RANI OF JHANSI IN ROMANCES
ABOUT THE INDIAN MUTINY

Splitting constitutes an intricate strategy of defense and differentiation in the colonial discourse. Two contradictory and independent attitudes inhabit the same place, one takes account of reality, the other is under the influence of instincts which detach the ego from reality. This results in the production of multiple and contradictory belief. The enunciatory moment of multiple belief is both a defense against the anxiety of difference, and itself productive of differentiation.

Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture1

While many novels about the Indian Uprising of 1857 present this historical conflict as the foundation for national epics, with only partial success, as we have seen in chapter 3, many other British and Anglo-Indian novels written in the 1880s and later shape this history to conform to an alternate literary form that these writers began to call "romance." Mutiny romances illustrate at least two aspects of what Homi K. Bhabha has defined as the "splitting" he sees as endemic to colonial discourse, both producing an "anxiety of difference" and at the same time insisting on it. First, this splitting finds expression in the doubling of popular forms of the novel that occurred when British and Anglo-Indian male writers appropriated the term romance" to describe adventure novels that focused on war and violence rather than on love and courtship. 2 Second, many of these "male" romances about the Indian Uprising of 1857 illustrate the colonial impulse to splitting" in their inversion of the usual rape script in mutiny novels by including episodes of Englishmen threatened with murder, and occasionally

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