Colonialism in Literature Analysis

Colonial Literature

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Colonial expansion inspired interest and generated writing during the age of the empire. Novels of exploration and exotic locales, such as Rider Haggard’s or Rudyard Kipling’s work, enjoyed great popularity. Even domestic tales were tinged by colonialism. For example, Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) describes a family that owns plantations in Antigua. The madwoman in the attic in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) is a woman from Jamaica. Colonialism figured heavily in the popular Western imagination and thus found its way into literature.

During the age of empires, linguists, philosophers and historians were also studying, labeling, and categorizing different cultures. As Edward Said has noted in Orientalism (1979), Western scholars made a virtual occupation of Asia, gaining fame from publishing work on the East. While this occupation was sometimes well-meaning, and did differ in form from area to area, it was usually appropriative. The natives were to be known and classified within a Western paradigm.