This article focuses on oriental tales set in India written by British women writers during the 1820s when colonial stories, landscapes and especially Indian women were frequent topics of female writings. India was represented as a fictionalized colonial space and reproduced in literature and the visual arts through the «picturesque» – an aesthetic model designed to observe and mimic exterior reality through the imperial gaze. In this essay I analyse how women poets, in particular Letitia Elizabeth Landon, portrayed different colonial environments – as the zenana or the harem – in relation to Indian female characters following the great influence of Indian and oriental tales of their time. Sharing an epistemological engagement with India, women writers, in spite of their many differences, exploited colonial otherness in order to discuss their own condition as women and as subaltern social beings in British society. By consequence, the feminine picturesque developed a dual discourse. On one level, it showed obedience to the imperialist ideology by following the structures of sentimentality and accepting its own minority status. On a more subversive level, female writers manipulated the terminology of the picturesque to newly challenge traditional female roles, implicitly questioning the symbolic relevance of women to colonial discourse. Assuming a different social perspective, but at the same time questioning their own subjectivity, English women poets wore different masks in order to give voice to collective female quests for personal identity and female fulfilment.

Colonial Picturesque and Indian Women in Letitia Elizabeth Landon's Oriental Poems

Serena Baiesi
2019

Abstract

This article focuses on oriental tales set in India written by British women writers during the 1820s when colonial stories, landscapes and especially Indian women were frequent topics of female writings. India was represented as a fictionalized colonial space and reproduced in literature and the visual arts through the «picturesque» – an aesthetic model designed to observe and mimic exterior reality through the imperial gaze. In this essay I analyse how women poets, in particular Letitia Elizabeth Landon, portrayed different colonial environments – as the zenana or the harem – in relation to Indian female characters following the great influence of Indian and oriental tales of their time. Sharing an epistemological engagement with India, women writers, in spite of their many differences, exploited colonial otherness in order to discuss their own condition as women and as subaltern social beings in British society. By consequence, the feminine picturesque developed a dual discourse. On one level, it showed obedience to the imperialist ideology by following the structures of sentimentality and accepting its own minority status. On a more subversive level, female writers manipulated the terminology of the picturesque to newly challenge traditional female roles, implicitly questioning the symbolic relevance of women to colonial discourse. Assuming a different social perspective, but at the same time questioning their own subjectivity, English women poets wore different masks in order to give voice to collective female quests for personal identity and female fulfilment.
Serena Baiesi
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/732984
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