"She had eyes and chose me": Ambivalence and miscegenation in Phebe Gibbes's Hartly House, Calcutta (1789)

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In the context of the Anglo-Indian setting of Hartly House, Calcutta at the beginning of the 50-year period of Orientalism, this paper examines the novel's pattern of political, sexual, racial, and epistemological ambivalences concentrated in the repeated references by its 16-year-old protagonist, Sophia, to becoming "orientalised," Gibbes's apparent coinage that takes on increasingly deeper implications regarding Sophia's subjectivity and her conflicted love for the Bramin who teaches her Vedic philosophy. Distinguishing Sophia's voice from Gibbes's underlying craft, this article argues that the novel's literariness, from Sophia's ubiquitous quotations to the novel's recurrent metatextual allusions to the sentimental genre, is a central means by which Gibbes conveys both Sophia's and her own ambivalences. By identifying Gibbes's early Romantic interest in associational psychology, the author studies the novel's non sequiturs as evidence of the anxiety underlying Sophia's incongruous observations and argues that, by having the Bramin die and Sophia return to England to marry Doyly, her East India Company fiance, Gibbes both subverts and capitulates to the demand for a sentimental ending, Sophia educating Doyly about the gentle masculinity of India that is companionable to the feminine, as distinct from that of the novel's increasingly violent and misogynistic East India Company men and soldiers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-47
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Romantic Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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