"Homely adventures": Domesticity, travel, andthe gender economy of colonial difference in eighteenth-century British literature
AuthorHarrow, Sharon Rebecca
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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Abstract"Homely Adventures": Travel and the Gender Economy of Colonial Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Literature examines the shift from adventure tales, in which characters dress up in the signs of colonial otherness, to domestic stories, in which characters are valued for their assimilation into an idealized, bourgeois identity. In so doing, I demonstrate that England's literary imagination and national identity were increasingly built upon an economy of colonial difference. In demonstrating the relationship between domesticity and difference, I analyze canonical fiction in a colonial context and read women's travel writing in the context of abolitionist poetry, natural history, and political pamphlets. Chapter one argues that Daniel Defoe's novel, Captain Singleton, moved questions of domesticity and sexuality, usually constellated around the notion of the home, into the public realm of colonial enterprise. Singleton transports his adventures to a home in England and threatens the countryside with piratical illegitimacy. Chapter two argues that Richard Cumberland's sentimental play, The West Indian, resolved colonialism's anxieties by incorporating worry about Afro-Caribbean commerce and sexuality into its domestic plot. Reworking the trope of the passionate Creole into the manageable figure of domestic husband, the sentimental script diffuses sexual danger and endorses patriarchy. Chapter three analyzes one of the scant travelogues written by a woman in the eighteenth century. Anna Maria Falconbridge's Narrative of Two Voyages to the River Sierra Leone challenges stereotypes of women that had become fundamental to empire by opening the domestic to exploration. In examining images of disease and representations of women in colonial contexts, I demonstrate that the connections between colonialism and domesticity in women's travel writing reorganized colonial discourse written by men. Chapter four argues that Austen's Mansfield Park represents class and race-mixing as dangerous excesses that threaten the ordered English countryside. Like many contemporary texts, Austen's novel views the relationship between female sexuality and labor as a way to define cultural (and moral) difference. Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram's marriage is an endorsement of patriarchal and imperial values based upon an ideology that fears the contaminating vices of cultural others whose difference is determined by the kinds of labor women perform.
Degree ProgramGraduate College