Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Allegories of Empire

The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text

1993
Author:

Jenny Sharpe

Allegories of Empire

Brings the historical memory of the 1857 Indian Mutiny to bear upon the theme of rape in British and Anglo-Indian fiction.

Brings the historical memory of the 1857 Indian Mutiny to bear upon the theme of rape in British and Anglo-Indian fiction.

Allegories of Empire re-constellates a metropolitan masterpiece, Forster’s A Passage to India, within Colonial Discourse Studies. Sharpe, a materialist feminist, is scrupulous in her use of theory to articulate Nationalisms, historical race-gendering, and contemporary feminist critique.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Allegories of Empire was first published in 1993.

“Allegories of Empire re-constellates a metropolitan masterpiece, Forster’s A Passage to India, within colonial discourse studies. Sharpe, a materialist feminist, is scrupulous in her use of theory to articulate nationalism, historical race-gendering, and contemporary feminist critique.” -Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

“Jenny Sharpe has done a great service in opening up the virtually taboo subject of the rape of the white woman by the colored man, and, furthermore, in teaching us theory - making by locating this frenzy of fantasy and reality within a specific crisis of European colonialism in India. ... In showing how a ‘wild anthropology’ must continuously rework feminism in the face of racism, and vice versa, she shows how the margins of empire were and still are at its center.” -Michael Taussig, New York University

Allegories of Empire introduces race and colonialism to feminist theories of rape and sexual difference, deploying women’s writing to undo the appropriation of English (universal) womanhood for the perpetuation of Empire.

Sharpe brings the historical memory of the 1857 Indian Mutiny to bear upon the theme of rape in British adn Anglo-Indian fiction. She argues that the idea of Indian men raping white women was not part of the colonial landscape prior to the revolt that was remembered as the savage attack of mutinous Indian soldiers on defenseless English women.

By showing how contemporary theories of female agency are implicated in an imperial past, Sharpe argues that such models are inappropriate, not only for discussion of colonized women, but for European women as well. Ultimately, she insists that feminist theory must begin from difference and dislocation rather than from identity and correspondence if it is to get beyond the race-gender-class impasse.

Jenny Sharpe received her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently a professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles. She has contributed articles to Modern Fiction Studies, Genders, and boundary 2.


Allegories of Empire

Jenny Sharpe received her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently a professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles. She has contributed articles to Modern Fiction Studies, Genders, and boundary 2.

Allegories of Empire

Allegories of Empire re-constellates a metropolitan masterpiece, Forster’s A Passage to India, within Colonial Discourse Studies. Sharpe, a materialist feminist, is scrupulous in her use of theory to articulate Nationalisms, historical race-gendering, and contemporary feminist critique.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

How an obsession with rape formed the colonial imagination is the subject of Sharpe’s study. Focusing upon genre fiction of the 19th century and works such as E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, she demonstrates that the narratives surrounding the 1857 Mutiny in India created a “racial memory” nurtured in and by a number of fictional accounts and popular historical treatments. Sharpe skillfully blends issues of race under colonial systems of rule with feminist theories of gender roles and sexual otherness.

Virginia Quarterly Review

In a series of brilliant readings on the topos of rape in Anglo-Indian fiction, Jenny Sharpe lays global mythologies to rest about the alleged Indian Mutiny in 1857, more appropriately termed the First War of Independence or the Sepoy Rebellion. Put another way, Sharpe innovatively genders a subject that critics have used historically to rationalize and affirm the ‘civilizing mission;’ chronicling the era when sexual violence became a discourse, Sharpe demonstrates how rape ‘emerges in and is constructed by its enunciation’ (4), how the crisis in British authority was managed through the sign of violated white female bodies.

Modern Fiction Studies

Allegories of Empire analyzes a small but crucial part of the contact between the British Empire and India with thoroughness and assurance. It will be both interesting and useful for all those who grapple with the difficult intersections of race and gender (and, to a lesser extent, class), particularly those interested in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction and colonial relations in general.

Modern Philology

Allegories of Empire offers stimulating and potentially controversial interpretations. Much remains to be said about the subject of this brief book; Jenny Sharpe has provided a good beginning.

Studies in the Novel

Sharpe’s analysis preserves a literary-critical understanding of colonial narratives as indeed anxious, shrill, and temulous about the sources of their own authority, and, even more importantly, she recognizes that shrillness as produced by and contributing to particular, historically specifiable forms of colonial domination.

Suvir Kaul, Diacritics