Nineteenth-Century Prose

Home » Vol 46.2 (Fall 2019)

Vol 46.2 (Fall 2019)


Roxanne Covelo, “Laudanum and Fine Wine: Metaphors of Discernment in the Aesthetics of Hume and De Quincey” (1-24)

In David Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste” (1757), the philosopher adapts an anecdote on wine-tasting taken from Don Quixote in order to illustrate his theory of “the delicacy of taste” and the figure of the true judge. The same wine, argues Hume, will be experienced differently according to the abilities, propensities, and capacity for discernment of each drinker. A careful reader of Hume, Thomas De Quincey proposes a very similar model of taste in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821). Using both wine and laudanum as metaphors, he constructs his own hierarchy of aesthetic competence and discernment—though with very different intentions from Hume. De Quincey’s aims in his own text are largely self-promotional: as will be the case in many future works as well, he boldly positions himself as a scholar, connoisseur, and true judge in the Humean sense, in order to justify his position in the new literary order and to recast the roles of non-fiction writer and critic as high status, creative endeavors.

Joshua T. Boyd, “Walden’s Hospitality and Fugitive Slave Law Hostility” (25-44)

A look at the various versions of Walden, a work Henry David Thoreau revised a number of times between 1847 and 1854, reveals a substantial revision in the early 1850s. A handful of critical works have dealt with the development of Walden over the years leading up to its publication in 1854, yet these works have left room for more consideration of the influence of Thoreau’s historical context on his additions to Walden. Integral to the argument here are two chapters substantially expanded and altered in 1852 and 1853: “Visitors” and “Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors.” The latter chapter especially is one that critics have largely ignored or found dissatisfying, but it and “Visitors” manifest the influence of historical events on the content and form of Thoreau’s famous book. The most pressing historical event of those years was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, a law that, upon its enactment, enraged Thoreau and many of his contemporaries as it affected fugitive slaves they knew personally. Additionally, this law was at odds with hospitality, a virtue that looms large in the American ethos. In what is likely surprising to many, Thoreau gives focused attention to hospitality in Walden, and he does so in the years after the implementation of the Fugitive Slave Law as he continues to compose and revise his famous work into its final 1854 version. In the aftermath of the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law, Thoreau particularly emphasizes the need for individuals to practice hospitality by being willing to welcome the displaced regardless of the risk. Thoreau utilizes the form of Walden to illustrate that hospitality creates a place for difference. After the Fugitive Slave Law, even as he adds explicit references to hospitality, he also expands the boundaries of chapters in Walden, especially “Visitors” and “Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors,” creating space for Concord’s erstwhile inhabitants to re-inhabit their homes within the pages of his text and challenging his fellow citizens in Concord to choose hospitality rather than conformity to the strictures of an unethical law.

Monique McDade, “Neither Here nor There: Ruiz de Burton’s Genres of Resistance” (45-70)

My essay takes a cultural studies approach to readings of María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s novels. The article turns to Ruiz de Burton’s personal correspondences, her Southern California newspaper articles, and her book reviews in order to evaluate the ways Ruiz de Burton’s own society viewed and understood her role in the late-nineteenth-century United States. While the scholarship has focused on the ways Ruiz de Burton’s biography informs the plots of her two novels, it has not considered in much depth the ways her non-literary writings draw our attention to the materiality of her novels as they circulated in a nineteenth-century literary marketplace. By returning to these archival texts we pivot our attention to the dialogic nature of Ruiz de Burton’s writing, to how she was communicating and speaking back to her Anglo-American countrymen and dominant United States institutions, not just resisting them. Ultimately, restoring analysis of her non-literary writings to readings of her novels opens up new ways of conceiving of Ruiz de Burton’s politics surrounding questions of national identity in the era of Manifest Destiny and western expansion.

Lynda Chouiten, “Colonial Conflict in Maupassant’s Mes Voyages en Algérie” (71-92)

This article examines Guy de Maupassant’s stance regarding the colonial conflict that marked nineteenth-century Algeria, as voiced in his Mes Voyages en Algérie. Drawing on the analyses of Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and Ranajit Guha among others, it argues that notwithstanding his denunciation of colonial malpractice, the writer reveals an insidious support for the French occupation by deploying a set of colonial rhetorical strategies. These include the de-politicization of native revolts, an Orientalist representation of the colonized as primitive, immoral, and therefore colonizable, and a tendency to classify the Algerians along ethnic/religious lines. In opposing Muslims to Jews and Berbers to Arabs, the chronicles perpetuate the divide-and-rule policy that seeks to facilitate the control of colonized territories by weakening their populations.

Joohyun Jade Park, “Kipling in Nagasaki: ‘Put the Whole Empire in a Glass Case’” (93-124)

In one of the thirteen letters Rudyard Kipling sent from his 1889 trip to Japan, he recounts the words of his traveling companion who muses that “It would pay us to establish an international suzerainty over Japan […and] to put the whole Empire in a glass case and mark it, Hors Concours, Exhibit A” (56). This comment and Kipling’s own expressed wish to “tear up the railway and pull down the telegraph poles” in Japan attest to the belated travelers’ desire to arrest the wind of modernity that was changing the Japanese modes of life as Victorians had come to know and appreciate (105). Most Kipling scholars have regarded Kipling’s travel letters as a “minor footnote in a long literary biography” (Scholtz 199). The handful of studies on Kipling’s Japan have shed light on the complicated reaction Kipling showed toward the modernizing country in the “Far East.” However, there remains much to be said about the rhetorical strategies Kipling employs in his Japanese letters as he tries to reconcile the fantasy of elegiac Japan with the not-quite-aesthetic elements of Meiji Japan. My essay responds to this gap by examining Kipling’s letter from Nagasaki, a city that had seen the foreign influences of the Portuguese and Dutch from the sixteenth-century and continued to function as an international crossroad as it remained a major entry point for Meiji Japan’s visitors. During his stay in Nagasaki, Kipling was made aware of its historico-political significance as well as some of the political implications of his own interactions with the Japanese, but the locals failed to convince Kipling to regard Japan as a political subject. In fact, as my essay argues, Kipling’s letter shows how his self-professed identity as a globetrotting sahib—with rights to practice the “prophylactic ignorance” of the colonial self—permits him to suppress the Japanese counter-gazes that undermine the validity of his romantic visions about Japan along with the authority of his imperial gaze.

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