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“Victorian studies” and “decolonization” have a unique historical relation. Though the recent discourse of “decolonization” has gained unprecedented traction in Victorian studies, there is a much older relation between these two domains. For the “Victorian” itself became available as a coherent object of study and was institutionalized as an area studies field in the heyday of Third Worldist liberation and the age of decolonization – the 1950s and 60s. A field notorious for its ignorance of questions of race and empire, Victorian studies came to be in the postwar period amidst an efflorescence of area studies fields in the United States. But as should be common knowledge by now, this period in the West, and the formation of area studies fields, did not develop in isolation from the colonial peripheries. This is evinced by the fact that writers from the periphery not only make frequent mention of the Victorians but also rely on them for making the postcolonial legible. Citations to Victorian writers, of course, abound in postcolonial writing. But rather than focus on the familiar instances in which the “empire writes back” (Rhys’s Jamaica, Achebe’s excoriation of Conrad, Guerrillas’ Thrushcross Grange, and daffodils in Lucy), this chapter considers those encounters with Victorian culture and society that seek to formulate the politics of decolonization.
The Crimean War bequeathed to Great Britain the Charge of the Light Brigade, a military disaster, and Florence Nightingale, a long-adored heroine. These epitomes of the conflict are not static emblems of Victorian England. They are lodestones for writing the nation’s past, forging its future, and assessing its annals. Other innovations and personages to emerge from the War also continue to exert their hold on ordinary Britons. The War inspired the Victoria Cross, a military award for valor, which holds its allure even today. More recently, Mary Seacole, a Caribbean-born hotelier and healer, has come to the fore as a Crimean heroine. Beyond the names of battles, heroes, and institutions, the Crimean War offered immaterial legacies. It engendered forms of masculinity and models of femininity, as well as practices of burial and structures of feeling. The notion of afterlife allows us to apprehend the longstanding, varied, and elusive effects of this mid-Victorian conflict. The six chapters of this book trace facets of the war and its legacies as they demonstrate the persistence of an overlooked conflict in the making of modern Britain.
The mid-nineteenth century's Crimean War is frequently dismissed as an embarrassment, an event marred by blunders and an occasion better forgotten. In The Crimean War and its Afterlife Lara Kriegel sets out to rescue the Crimean War from the shadows. Kriegel offers a fresh account of the conflict and its afterlife: revisiting beloved figures like Florence Nightingale and hallowed events like the Charge of the Light Brigade, while also turning attention to newer worthies, including Mary Seacole. In this book a series of six case studies transport us from the mid-Victorian moment to the current day, focusing on the heroes, institutions, and values wrought out of the crucible of the war. Time and again, ordinary Britons looked to the war as a template for social formation and a lodestone for national belonging. With lucid prose and rich illustrations, this book vividly demonstrates the uncanny persistence of a Victorian war in the making of modern Britain.
How did the emigration of nineteenth-century Britons to colonies of settlement shape Victorian literature? Philip Steer uncovers productive networks of writers and texts spanning Britain, Australia, and New Zealand to argue that the novel and political economy found common colonial ground over questions of British identity. Each chapter highlights the conceptual challenges to the nature of 'Britishness' posed by colonial events, from the gold rushes to invasion scares, and traces the literary aftershocks in familiar genres such as the bildungsroman and the utopia. Alongside lesser-known colonial writers such as Catherine Spence and Julius Vogel, British novelists from Dickens to Trollope are also put in a new light by this fresh approach that places Victorian studies in a colonial perspective. Bringing together literary formalism and British World history, Settler Colonialism in Victorian Literature describes how what it meant to be 'British' was re-imagined in an increasingly globalized world.
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