Making of British India fictions, 1772-1823
This thesis investigates British fictional representations of India in novels, plays and poetry from 1772 to 1823. Rather than simply correlating literary portrayals to shifting colonial context and binary power relationships, the project relates representations to the impact of India on British popular culture, and print capitalism’s role in defining and promulgating national identity and proto-global awareness. The study contends that the internal historical development of the literary modes – the stage play, the novel and verse – as well as consumer expectations, were hugely influential in shaping fictional portrayals of the subcontinent. In addition, it argues that the literary representations of India were contingent upon authors’ gender, class and their lived or lack of lived experience in the subcontinent. The project seeks to use literary texts as case studies to explore the growing commoditisation of culture, the developing literary marketplace and an emerging sense of national identity. The thesis proposes that the aforementioned discourses and anxieties are embodied within the very literary forms of British India narratives. In addition, it seeks to determine shifts in how Britain’s relationship with the subcontinent was imagined and how events in colonial India were perceived by the general public. Furthermore, the project utilises literary texts as sites to explore the discursive and epistemological strategies that Britons engaged in to either justify or confront their country’s role as a colonising nation.