Imperialism at home : race and Victorian women's fiction /

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Main Author: Meyer, Susan, 1960-
Format: Book
Published:Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1996.
Series:Reading women writing
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Review by Choice Review

Meyer argues that the deep connections between gender and race in Victorian thought enable the reader to use the metaphors of race and empire in women's fiction to critique imperialism. Previous scholars (Brantlinger, Said, Spivak, Sharpe, McLintock, and others) have argued that men's and women's Victorian fiction sustains the ideology of empire. Meyer offers not so much a challenge as "a more precise assessment" of this relationship, acknowledging "widely different social positions ... in relation to the project of empire," and more specifically the complex, conflicted position of feminist women, for whom racial domination and resistance none too subtly modeled their own experience. She marshals textual evidence to argue that Charlotte and Emily Bront"e and George Eliot understood the fundamental identity between the social and economic forces subordinating women and peoples of other cultures and that this perception can explain the conflicted and shifting meaning in the novels. Some chapters have appeared earlier, but the new material (on Wuthering Heights and The Mill on the Floss) is important and vital to Meyer's argument; the introduction, "Race as Metaphor," is a masterpiece of self-positioning within the current discourse. The notes are true footnotes, well worth following with the text. Part of the "Reading Women Writing" series, the book is beautifully edited, with an excellent bibliography and index. Graduate students, ambitious undergraduates, sophisticated general readers. F. Alaya; Ramapo College of New Jersey

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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