Shankar Raman. Framing 'India': the Colonial Imaginary in Early Modern Culture.
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002. xiv + 390 pp. index, illus. bibl. $60. ISBN ISBN
International Standard Book Number
ISBN International Standard Book Number
ISBN n abbr (= International Standard Book Number) → ISBN m : 0-8047-3970-6.
The Americas have always dominated both literary and scholarly colonialist agendas. Among recent studies one thinks particularly of Peter Hulme's Colonial Encounters (1987), Stephen Greenblatt's Marvelous Possessions (1991), and Jeffrey Knapp's An Empire Nowhere (1992). For this reason alone, the present broadly theoretical yet rigorously argued investigation of the European discovery of "India" (a purely subjective concept and hence almost always in quotation marks) provides a flesh perspective on the way we in the West have come to think about ourselves and the world. Drawing on a multiplicity of ideological provenances and historical documents,
Raman argues that the early modern "discovery" of India contributed definitively to the formation of a "radical" and self-assertive "early modern subjecthood" (129). The result is a book sometimes exasperating, often stimulating, and almost never dull. Raman develops his thesis by closely interrogating two "canonical" and two "non-canonical" literary texts along with several late-medieval and early modern cartographical car·tog·ra·phy
The art or technique of making maps or charts.
[French cartographie : carte, map (from Old French, from Latin charta, carta, paper made from papyrus representations. These are richly contextualized with historical, theological, and philosophical discourses of the time, considered from a familiar variety of postmodern theoretical perspectives. Deploying Hans Blumenberg's "metaphorology," as inflected in·flect
v. in·flect·ed, in·flect·ing, in·flects
1. To alter (the voice) in tone or pitch; modulate.
2. Grammar To alter (a word) by inflection.
3. by new historicism and the Bourdieuvian theory of "practice," the author organizes his discussion around four "absolute metaphors"--voyage, cosmos, theater, and market--said to "mediat[e] conceptual understanding of the world" in this period (22). Together, these constitute the Lacanian "imaginary" of the book's subtitle. While these tropes are not equally persuasive in organizing the discussion--by the end of the book "market," for example, has come to signify the virtually total commodification Commodification (or commoditization) is the transformation of what is normally a non-commodity into a commodity, or, in other words, to assign value. As the word commodity has distinct meanings in business and in Marxist theory, commodification of subject/object relations in western modernity--Raman clings valiantly to them as a skeleton on which to drape drape
To cover, dress, or hang with or as if with cloth in loose folds.
A cloth arranged over a patient's body during an examination or treatment or during surgery, designed to provide a sterile field around the area. the densely varied material he invokes.
The first pair of metaphors underwrites the opening section of the book, in which Raman uses Camoens' Os Lusiadas to argue that early modern voyages of discovery destabilize de·sta·bi·lize
tr.v. de·sta·bi·lized, de·sta·bi·liz·ing, de·sta·bi·liz·es
1. To upset the stability or smooth functioning of: the cosmos of ancient epic, achieving an aporia a·po·ri·a
1. A figure of speech in which the speaker expresses or purports to be in doubt about a question.
2. An insoluble contradiction or paradox in a text's meanings. whose epistemological bases are underscored by early modern cartography's proto-Cartesian objectification ob·jec·ti·fy
tr.v. ob·jec·ti·fied, ob·jec·ti·fy·ing, ob·jec·ti·fies
1. To present or regard as an object: "Because we have objectified animals, we are able to treat them impersonally" of space. In the second section, the other absolute metaphors mediate respectively the production of colonialism itself as "an object of knowledge" (185) with the audience as its subject in John Fletcher's Island Princess (1621) and the equivocal confirmation-by-denial of the culture of commercial exchange in Dryden's Amboyna am·boy·na also am·boi·na
[After Amboyna (Ambon).]
Noun 1. (1673). In the final section, a shrewd analysis of psychoanalytic criticism of A Midsummer Night's Dream A Midsummer Night's Dream is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare written sometime in the 1590s. It portrays the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors, their interactions with the Duke and Duchess of Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta, and demonstrates contemporary continuity with the historical emergence of the Oedipus complex Oedipus complex, Freudian term, drawn from the myth of Oedipus, designating attraction on the part of the child toward the parent of the opposite sex and rivalry and hostility toward the parent of its own. as a "paradigm ... of [that] colonial and patriarchal domination" whereby "'India' is simultaneously constituted and effaced as object" (24).
As this quotation implies, "India" is Raman's ubiquitous-if-ever-elusive signifier. Throughout the book, India is conceived as "a symbolic site upon which to negotiate" the conflicting "impulses and energies" of Renaissance Europe (83). In Os Lusiadas it signifies the boundary whose obligatory transgression in a Hobbesian economy of desire propels the voyagers beyond the cosmetic enclosures of classical epic. The rationalization of cartography cartography: see map.
Art and science of representing a geographic area graphically, usually by means of a map or chart. Political, cultural, or other nongeographic features may be superimposed. , on the other hand, drains "India" of its strangeness, so that it "enters the domain of knowledge" and is "produced as a colonialist space" (151). In the English theater it is staged by Fletcher as a "consumable object" and erased by Dryden as a "naturalized nat·u·ral·ize
v. nat·u·ral·ized, nat·u·ral·iz·ing, nat·u·ral·iz·es
1. To grant full citizenship to (one of foreign birth).
2. To adopt (something foreign) into general use. " market to be contested by European traders. Finally, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, having been redefined matriarchally by Titania and Hippolyta, "India" is suppressed in favor of a market-bound exchange whose figure is the "changeling" Indian boy transferred from Titania to Oberon.
This is heady stuff. But despite its ponderous poststructuralist rhetoric and over-elaboration of seemingly peripheral material--always the fatal Cleopatra of new-historical studies--Framing "India" serves up a rich intellectual concoction whose exotic savors always arise from a substantial discursive stew. If some of Raman's readings are pushed farther than his evidence seems to allow--I found the argument about Dryden's commercialization of patronage especially unpersuasive--the book makes a plausible case that Renaissance colonial texts representing the East encode the emergence of a modern "subjecthood." And the chapter on A Midsummer Night's Dream, with its metacritical thesis of an intrinsic relationship among colonialist subjectivity, Enlightenment rational progressivism, and psychoanalysis, constitutes a brilliant take on the Shakespeare industry's investment in the postcolonial "imaginary."
University of Houston