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Images of India in British Fiction: Anglo-India vs. the Metropolis


Sebastian Horstmann

This book investigates how India was portrayed in British novels and short stories during the heyday of the British Raj. In the tradition of post-colonial studies such as Edward Said’s Orientalism, it will be considered in how far fiction by Rudyard Kipling and other writers supported the institution of the Raj by establishing and spreading certain ideas about the Indian sub-continent and the Indian people. In addition, Said’s claims concerning the consistency of what he labels Orientalist discourse will be challenged to a certain degree, as British authors who lived in India are more likely to present an image of the country that is at least partly more detailed and nuanced than portrayals of the Indian scene created by writers who never saw the sub-continent.
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3. The Traditional Image of India


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3.  The Traditional Image of India

As indicated above, not many critics investigate possible areas of divergence between Anglo-Indian and metropolitan writings. Oaten, for example, merely hints that the literature created “in British India … is unique” without going into any detail (4). Sencourt, B. Singh, and Parry do not distinguish between texts written by Britons in India and Britons who never saw the country, and neither does Stephen Ignatius Hemenway, who defines The Anglo-Indian Novel as “a work of fiction produced by an Englishman writing about India” in his study (3). Greenberger focuses on writers with “a first-hand knowledge” of the sub-continent, but does not provide any comparisons with metropolitan authors, although, without giving any convincing evidence, he declares that there is “little difference between the writings of those who were most familiar with the area and those who knew it only through secondary sources,” thereby contradicting Oaten’s assumption (4–5). In fact, Moore-Gilbert is the only critic who sets out to look at the supposed dissimilarities between the two groups of texts. Unfortunately, though, he does not analyse enough metropolitan works to arrive at a comprehensive final assessment. Several critics outline the ‘traditional’ British image of India as it manifests itself in literature from Elizabethan times onwards, however; and as many Anglo-Indian authors complain about these traditional ideas in their writings, this conception will be considered in this section.

Although India is “scarcely mentioned by the early Elizabethan writers,” as Sencourt...

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