Planters, mariners, nabobs, and squires: Masculine types and imperial ideology, 1719-1817 /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Schweiger, Tristan James, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (246 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: James Chandler Committee members: Timothy Campbell; Leela Gandhi.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-05(E), Section: A.
Summary:On 1 December 1783, Edmund Burke delivered an impassioned speech in the House of Commons, urging Parliament to reform the East India Company, which Burke argued was ruling Bengal with venality, cruelty, and corruption. If Parliament failed to act, Burke cautioned, not only would Britain's Indian subjects suffer the consequences but so would Britain itself. Burke's fear that the imperial project was corrupting the moral pedagogy of young British men illustrates the intricate links in the British imagination between empire and masculinity. As a range of writers with diverse social and political allegiances attempted to make sense of the unfolding imperial modernity, two questions appeared inseparable: what it meant to rule an increasingly vast, transoceanic empire and what it meant to become a man, specifically a gentleman.
Although I take as my object of inquiry the eighteenth-century gentleman, my work develops, as well as contests, recent accounts by critics such as Nancy Armstrong, Felicity Nussbaum, and Srinivas Aravamudan. These studies have greatly expanded our understanding of the central role of women, members of the non-propertied classes, and colonial subjects in the ideologies and historical-political struggles of the age. By renewing attention upon the British gentleman, I argue that even within the most idealized, authorized versions of masculine identity, the ambivalences and upheavals brought about by imperial modernity roil just below the surface.
The arc of the dissertation encompasses four masculine types, to assess how the interplay between representations of masculinity and imperial ideology transformed over the century. But I also assess striking commonalities that illuminate the evolving set of discourses these figures sought to reconcile. My first chapter treats Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), a novel generally understood as oriented emphatically around a Whig view of commerce and empire but riddled with Crusoe's repeated assertions of absolutist patriarchalism. This chapter argues that Defoe sets these assertions against the novel's Whig and proto-capitalist ethos to suggest the creeping tyranny that could develop in young men abroad, laboring far from the civilizing constraints of British society. Masculinity in Defoe's novel is thus a site of possibility and a lens through which to critique the drives and desires that made empire so alluring.
Chapter Two reads Tobias Smollett's Roderick Random (1748) alongside Henry Fielding's magnum opus, Tom Jones (1749), as it works toward a theory of how the eighteenth-century novel reenvisioned squirearchy. I contend that Smollett and Fielding both conceive gentlemanliness as a social performance and that, this performativity at once allows for a liberating self-fashioning and throws into question the nature of masculine agency itself. The two novels explore a moral and behavioral pedagogy that ostensibly enables the modern would-be gentleman to persuasively inhabit his social position and gain control over his economic destiny by mastering a gendered performance; but these novels are also subtended by a fear that gentlemanly authority so founded becomes show without substance. Thus, this chapter treats the insufficiency of an historic symbol of gentlemanliness alongside the failure to fully conceive a stable, alternate possibility.
Chapter Three discusses James Grainger's 1764 georgic, The Sugar-Cane, which follows the English squire to sea, recasting the Caribbean planter as of a type with historic modes of masculinity in a bid for cultural relevance and to establish command over an alien, hostile place. I then analyze Samuel Foote's 1772 farce, The Nabob, which explores the deleterious consequences for Britain itself if one vision of corrupted power and agency were to supplant enervated forms of gentlemanliness. Foote's text, I argue, reverses Grainger's concepts of imperial authority, envisioning wealth produced in the colony as the means for projecting power from the periphery back toward the metropole with vitiating malevolence.
Finally, Chapter Four assesses the role of the country gentleman in early nineteenth-century national tales and historical novels. I contend that Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy (1817), Maria Edgeworth's The Absentee (1812), and Sydney Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl (1806) all deploy reformulated patriarchs in ultimately ambivalent attempts to anchor their vision of Union. In these three texts, all of which work through the place of the near-colony in the burgeoning empire, the reiterated squire is at once a stabilizing force of reconciliation and benevolent governance and a figure of tyranny and caprice who is paradoxically teetering on the verge of obsolescence. By exploring the instabilities inherent in supposedly dominant gentlemanly typologies, and the ways that those instabilities are registered and mediated in literature, I aim to complicate received accounts of the ideological turmoil at the heart of empire in the long eighteenth century and to produce a more complete understanding of this turmoil's continued reverberations. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).