Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2020
This essay examines how Mary Seacole’s autobiography-cum-travelogue, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (1857), uses revisionary mimicry to engage the tropological schema of colonial and imperial discourses. Seacole artfully deploys recodings and revisions that generate a nascent poetics of colonial identity and subjectivity. Her narrative unfolds as a drama of self-construction that locates the individual colonial subject within the nexus of mid-Victorian ideologies of industry, adventure, gender, race, and nation. It reverses the trajectory of imperial travel narratives as it relates the struggle to move from the colonial periphery to the imperial centre. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands complicates contemporary attempts to define it as counter-discourse, as it is permeated by contradictions and ambiguities that highlight the problematic nature of hybridity in Seacole’s own self-construction. Wonderful Adventures is thus marked by the implicit tensions of Caribbean colonial relations despite Seacole’s apparent erasure of the politics of the post-Emancipation British Caribbean.
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