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Shadows of the Raj : Anglo-Indian visions of empire, the Raj Revival, and the literary crafting of national character Gagne-Hawes, Genevieve


In my dissertation, I argue for a relationship of influence between the authors of what I define as the Raj novel genre, or works by British writers who lived in India between 1858 and 1947 and produced novels set in that country, and authors of the so-called “Raj Revival” in 1970s and 1980s Great Britain. The latter encompasses bestselling, award-winning novels (M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions, Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet; J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust) and films (David Lean’s A Passage to India) that nostalgically revisit the Raj experience. Both movements claim ideal British character is manifested by Anglo-Indians, British persons living and working in India, who develop a series of exemplary character traits through the rigors of daily service in the subcontinent. In the Raj novel genre, this model of Anglo-Indian character—and the concurrent denigration of Indian character—is used as a strategy by which to elevate the nascent Anglo-Indian community. In the Raj Revival, the Raj novel genre’s ideals are deployed in support of the conservative shift that occurred during Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s tenure (1979-1990). Where the Raj novel genre’s image of Anglo-Indian ideality is prescriptive, the Raj Revival renders it nostalgic and comforting, a means of asserting lost national prominence through familiar markers of British imperial identity. The specificity and scope of the Raj texts’ influence necessitates, I argue, ongoing attention to the constitutive power of the Raj model of ideal British character in analyses of British literature and rhetoric in the wake of empire.

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