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John Bull and the Continent


Wojciech Jasiakiewicz and Jakub Lipski

Ever since John Arbuthnot published The History of John Bull in 1712, the figure of John Bull has stereotypically personified the best and the worst traits of the British (or English) national character. The present work takes the eponymous juxtaposition as an incentive to study the variety of multi-faceted contacts between the two sides. Given the recent attempts at a re-definition of the relationship between Britain and the Continent – best visible in the turmoil over Britain’s EU membership – the results of the research will hopefully stimulate discussion about John Bull’s ever-changing presence within or without the Continent.
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Identity renegotiation in Charlote Brontë’s Villette


The nineteenth century, especially its second half, saw an intense preoccupation with the issue of national identity. Not unlike Europeans, the English people defined themselves in relation to the Other in the colonies. In the words of Said, European culture in general “gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self” (Said 1993: 236). Understandably, colonial matters were reflected in much of the writing of the day and, as argued by Gayatri Spivak, “imperialism, understood as England’s social mission, was a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English” (Spivak 1985: 262)1. At the same time, Englishness was also defined and interrogated by juxtaposing it with the Continent, especially France, a long-time political and religious enemy.2 In this context, the nineteenth-century British novel was a useful tool not only in the Empire-building project but also in asserting the superiority of the English way of life. However, it is important to remember that major Victorian writers also used the contrast with Continental values and attitudes to shine critical light on their countrymen. Charlotte Brontë is not different in this respect. A great deal has already been written about the novelist’s orientalism and reliance on “stereotyped images of threat or allure” (Boehmer 2005: 22) in presenting the colonial Other. Similarly, her pejorative representation of Catholics and the French has not escaped critical attention. Yet it is only recently that Brontë’s views on cosmopolitanism...

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