British Colonial Realism in Africa: Inalienable Objects, by Deborah Shapple Spillman

By Deborah Shapple Spillman

What position do items play in realist narratives as they movement among societies and their assorted platforms of price as commodities, as charms, as presents, as trophies, or as curses? This e-book explores how the fight to symbolize gadgets in British colonial realism corresponded with ancient struggles over the cloth international and its importance.

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31 In his juxtaposition of the architect and the bricklayer, Pitt Rivers positions humans as bricklayers or makers who may produce and arrange words and objects but may not diverge from the system that prescribes the rules of their usage and variation. An architect, similar to the engineer of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s later discussion of bricolage in The Savage Mind, would represent a designer of this system. This architect, if one in fact existed for Pitt Rivers, would presumably be the law of necessity; one that stems strictly from environmental conditions and socio-evolutionary laws governing the origin and descent of species, to which Pitt Rivers frequently pays homage in his writing.

2, eds Fredrick R. Karl and Laurence Davies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983–2007), 147. Benita Parry, Conrad and Imperialism: Ideological Boundaries and Visionary Frontiers (London: Macmillan, 1983), 28. Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa: Congo Français, Corsico and Cameroons, 5th edn (1897; Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), 441. Hereafter cited in text as Travels. Edward Wilmot Blyden, African Life and Customs (1908; London: African Publication Society, 1969), 39. Like many colonial novels of the nineteenth century, they were published in England and for a largely metropolitan Victorian audience.

Literary and cultural critics like Sanjay Krishnan are beginning to make comparable claims about uses of British realism distinct from metropolitan forms in former colonial territories like the Malayan Peninsula. See Sanjay Krishnan, “History and the Work of Literature in the Periphery,” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 42, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 482–9. 18. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 195. 19. Even in its very aversion toward inherited literary conventions, and in its characteristic self-consciousness toward the limitations of its medium, nineteenth-century realism, in retrospect, pursued recognizable aesthetic conventions.

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