The English “Self” under Siege: A Comparison of a Memsahib’s Private Journals and Her Novel The History of George Desmond

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Abstract

This paper examines Mary Sherwood’s The History of George Desmond (1821) alongside and against the author’s private journals to demonstrate the ways in which the novel both aligned with and veered away from Sherwood’s own personal experiences as a memsahib living in colonial India. It argues that while the novel reflects her awareness of the agency of colonized Indians and the precarious predicament of the colonizer in the subcontinent, its deployment of Gothic literary modes had the effect of accentuating racism and disorientation in the contact zone. This essay argues that while the memsahib’s private journals allowed space for moments when racial and class distinctions were temporarily eroded, the novel’s prescriptive genre constraints did not allow for such occurrences. It further argues that the novel’s admonitory function and use of Gothic literary tropes led Sherwood to raise problematic questions about the colonial endeavor, which are left unanswered by the narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-34
JournalNineteenth-Century Literature
Volume72
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2017

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