Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1796) by Elizabeth Hamilton is an epistolary novel composed of a series of letters written by Zaarmilla, the Hindoo Rajah of Almora, to his friend Kisheen Neeay Maandaara, and tells the story of what happens when the Rajah frees an English scholar, Percy, taken prisoner by the Afghans while researching “antiquities” in Hindoostan. Unfortunately Percy dies, but he elicits the Rajah’s interest in English culture, and, particularly, the Bible, so much so that, after meeting some of Percy’s English friends in India, he decides to travel to England in order to taste their culture directly. Bramin Sheermaal, another friend of Maandaara’s who has visited England, tries to persuade him not to go, since he thinks it is not at all the perfect place he imagines it to be. However, the Rajah resolves to go in spite of the warnings and in his letters from there he describes his experiences and impressions. The novel has been variously read by literary critics and historians. Some have underlined its well-masked feminist issues, others its ambiguous political and social concerns. This paper will particularly focus on the author’s engagement with imperialist discourse through the exploitation of a personally revisited – and admitted to women –fictional genre such as the novel. By creating a text which, in its form, achieves a miscegenation of genres and genders, Hamilton manages to explore the terrain of Orientalist discourse without directly contravening contemporary prescriptions as to women’s rights in the literary field. By means of subtle narrative strategies and ironic understatements she eventually conveys a political ideology which has at its core an essential idea of tolerance, concerning racial and sociological issues, as well as the philosophical conviction that human nature and, consequently, the structures of society, is always something fluid, subject to change and continuous, albeit paradoxical, shifts. Her assuming the perspective of the Hindoo Rajah writing letters from England involves a whole series of gender and narrative transgressions which allow Hamilton to deal with conventionally “masculine” subjects, yet also, unlike her contemporary Wollstonecraft, to eschew ridicule and censorship. She ventriloquises a man, thus she can legitimately confront certain issues forbidden to a woman’s pen, but at the same time, the readers know that she is always there behind her persona, and, despite the choice of a typically feminine genre, her confident voice emerges from the apparently innocuous narrative to challenge, though surreptitiously, the contemporary British establishment.
Generic Hybridism and Narrative Ventriloquism in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Translations of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1796) / Angeletti, Gioia. - In: LA QUESTIONE ROMANTICA. - ISSN 1125-0364. - 12/13-2002(2004), pp. 29-47.
|Tipologia ministeriale:||Articolo su rivista|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo su rivista|