cover of book

Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay
by Balachandra Rajan
read by Michael Murrin and Patrick Brantlinger
Duke University Press, 1999
Paper: 978-0-8223-2298-6 | Cloth: 978-0-8223-2279-5 | eISBN: 978-0-8223-7814-3
Library of Congress Classification PR129.I5R35 1999
Dewey Decimal Classification 820.93254

Spanning nearly two and a half centuries of English literature about India, Under Western Eyes traces the development of an imperial discourse that governed the English view of India well into the twentieth century. Narrating this history from its Reformation beginnings to its Victorian consolidation, Balachandra Rajan tracks this imperial presence through a wide range of literary and ideological sites. In so doing, he explores from a postcolonial vantage point collusions of gender, commerce, and empire—while revealing the tensions, self-deceptions, and conflicts at work within the English imperial design.
Rajan begins with the Portuguese poet Camões, whose poem celebrating Vasco da Gama’s passage to India becomes, according to its eighteenth-century English translator, the epic of those who would possess India. He closely examines Milton’s treatment of the Orient and Dryden’s Aureng-Zebe, the first English literary work on an Indian subject. Texts by Shelley, Southey, Mill, and Macaulay, among others, come under careful scrutiny, as does Hegel’s significant impact on English imperial discourse. Comparing the initial English representation of its actions in India (as a matter of commerce, not conquest) and its contemporaneous treatment of Ireland, Rajan exposes contradictions that shed new light on the English construction of a subaltern India.
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