British Women Writers and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1785-1835

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, United Kingdom, Women on 2015-11-29 21:20Z by Steven

British Women Writers and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1785-1835

Ashgate Publishing
November 2014
160 pages
234 x 156 mm
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4724-3088-5
eBook PDF ISBN: 978-1-4724-3089-2
eBook ePUB ISBN: 978-1-4724-3090-8

Kathryn S. Freeman, Associate Professor of English
University of Miami, Miami, Florida

In her study of newly recovered works by British women, Kathryn Freeman traces the literary relationship between women writers and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, otherwise known as the Orientalists. Distinct from their male counterparts of the Romantic period, who tended to mirror the Orientalist distortions of India, women writers like Phebe Gibbes, Elizabeth Hamilton, Sydney Owenson, Mariana Starke, Eliza Fay, Anna Jones, and Maria Jane Jewsbury interrogated these distortions from the foundation of gender. Freeman takes a three-pronged approach, arguing first that in spite of their marked differences, female authors shared a common resistance to the Orientalists’ intellectual genealogy that allowed them to represent Vedic non-dualism as an alternative subjectivity to the masculine model of European materialist philosophy. She also examines the relationship between gender and epistemology, showing that women’s texts not only shift authority to a feminized subjectivity, but also challenge the recurring Orientalist denigration of Hindu masculinity as effeminate. Finally, Freeman contrasts the shared concern about miscegenation between Orientalists and women writers, contending that the first group betrays anxiety about intermarriage between East Indian Company men and indigenous women while the varying portrayals of intermarriage by women show them poised to dissolve the racial and social boundaries. Her study invites us to rethink the Romantic paradigm of canonical writers as replicators of Orientalists’ cultural imperialism in favor of a more complicated stance that accommodates the differences between male and female authors with respect to India.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: British women writers and late Enlightenment Anglo-India: the paradoxical binary of Vedic nondualism and the Western sublime
  • 1. The Asiatic Society of Bengal: “beyond the stretch of labouring thought sublime”
  • 2. “Out of that narrow and contracted path”: creativity and authority in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah
  • 3. Confronting sacrifice, resisting the sentimental: Phebe Gibbes, Sidney Owenson, and the Anglo-Indian novel
  • 4. Female authorship in the Anglo-Indian meta-drama of Mariana Starke’s The Sword of Peace (1788) and The Widow of Malabar (1791)
  • Epilogue: lost and found in translation: re-orienting British revolutionary literature through women writers in early Anglo-India
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Tags: , , , , ,