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Orientalist Gothic


John Drew, in his comprehensive examination of ‘India and the Romantic Imagination’, describes Sydney Owenson’s The Missionary: An Indian Tale (3 vols, 1811) as ‘oriental Gothic’. Here I will argue that a more apt definition would be ‘Orientalist Gothic’, and that, as such, Owenson’s novel, like the others in this set, addresses particular as well as general issues in the literature, culture and politics of its time. Some idea of the location of The Missionary in its historical moment can be gathered from the fact that negotiations between its author and publisher were managed by a leading politician and concluded in his coach. The politician was Castlereagh, momentarily out of office over failures in British campaigns against Napoleon, but soon to return to office as foreign secretary the year after The Missionary was published. At that moment Sydney Owenson (1776–1859) was already famous, for four related reasons. She was personally attractive, with a number of socially well-placed admirers. She had developed a public identity as the female embodiment of a liberal Romantic idea of Ireland. This role she performed for the titled and powerful of Ireland and England in the drawing rooms of their country mansions and town houses, and particularly the Dublin and London houses of her patrons, the Marquis and Marchioness of Abercorn. Lastly, she also embodied this role in fiction as the author of a series of successful novels in the new genre of the ‘national tale’, or story dealing with a region’s or nation’s culture, history and identity through familiar plots of love and courtship. This introduction will first describe Sydney Owenson’s social formation as a promoter of liberal Romantic nationalism, then relate her work to the aristocratic reform movement within the governmental and imperial administration of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and to the Romantic Orientalism that was part of it. It will then go on to survey the development of her fiction up to The Missionary, and consider The Missionary, in particular, as an example of Orientalist Gothic.

Volume Contents

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    Front Matter
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    Introduction
  • The Missionary (1811) By Sydney Owenson
    • The Missionary (1811): Volume 1 By Sydney Owenson
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        The Missionary: An Indian Tale
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        I
        Chapter I
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        II
        Chapter II
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        III
        Chapter III
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        IV
        Chapter IV
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        V
        Chapter V
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        VI
        Chapter VI
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        VII
        Chapter VII
    • The Missionary (1811): Volume 2 By Sydney Owenson
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        The Missionary: an Indian Tale
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        VIII
        Volume 2. Chapter VIII
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        IX
        Chapter IX
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        X
        Chapter X
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        XI
        Chapter XI
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        XII
        Chapter XII
    • The Missionary (1811): Volume 3 By Sydney Owenson
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        The Missionary: An Indian Tale
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        XIII
        Volume 3 Chapter XIII
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        XIV
        Chapter XIV
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        XV
        Chapter XV
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        XVI
        Chapter XVI
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        XVII
        Chapter XVII
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        Conclusion
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    Back Matter