Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India / Edition 1

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Masks of Conquest traces modern English studies to its colonial origin. The book reveals that English literature as a subject in the curriculum was established in India well before its institutionalization in England and had its beginnings as a strategy of colonial management. Gauri Viswanathan probes tensions in British policy making between secular and religious impulses and shows how these were developed in new cultural meanings for English literature. She argues that in the political gamesmanship of colonial administration, the literary text functioned as a mirror of the ideal Englishman, camouflaging the material activities of the British government. The author goes on to propose that since the discipline of English literary studies developed in colonial times, the current challenges to the literary canon, both in India and elsewhere, must take account of the role of empire in the creation of modern English studies.
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Editorial Reviews

A revision of the author's Ph.D thesis Columbia U. in which she examines the history of English literature instruction in India, how English studies became an instrument of political control, and the continuing implications of the uses to which literary works were put in the service of British imperialism. Originally published cloth in 1989. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
History of European Ideas

The great merit of Viswanathan's closely argued and admirably researched book is to show that the exigencies of managing an empire played a far more important role than has hitherto been recognized in the emergence of the discipline as a social practice.

Papers in Language and Literature

Brilliantly working out in local detail a conception of literary education as a 'strategy of containment,' Masks of Conquest adds significantly both to the history of English education in relation to literary representation, and to the ongoing critical revaluation of the role of 'Literature' in modern culture.

From the Publisher

"This brilliantly argued work, which is both first-class history and first-class theory, is an important book for the general reader as well as for humanists, educators, and policymakers."--Choice "A thought-provoking statement on the relations between culture and power."--Indian Literature

"Fascinating.... Viswanathan pursues [this thesis] with verve, insight, and a thorough grounding in nineteenth century and modern sources."--Victorian Studies

"A compelling account of the relationship between power and culture and an indictment of the exploitative tendencies of ruling class interests."--Modern Fiction Studies

"A remarkable feat of interpretation for the unity of its argument and the unification of the extensive evidence on which the argument is based."--Journal of Asian and African Studies

Columbia University Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231070843
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 12/22/1989
  • Series: The Social Foundations of Aesthetic Forms Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 206
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Gauri Viswanathan is Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. She is also the author of Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief, which won the Harry Levin Prize awarded by the American Comparative Literature Association, the James Russell Lowell Prize awarded by the Modern Language Association of America, and the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Prize awarded by the Association for Asian Studies. She coedits the series South Asia Across the Disciplines, published jointly by the university presses of Columbia, Chicago, and California.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Beginnings of English Literary Study 23
2 Praeparatio Evangelica 45
3 "One Power, One Mind" 68
4 Rewriting English 94
5 Lessons of History 118
6 The Failure of English 142
7 Conclusion: Empire and the Western Canon 166
Notes 171
Select Bibliography 187
Index 197
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