Leonard and Virginia Woolf: writing against empire Anna Snaith, King’s College London Abstract



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The Voyage Out examines the interconnected systems of patriarchal and imperial control through focus on the education and development of a young woman. As Jed Esty (2007) has explored, Woolf’s motif of interrupted or uneven development registers the ways in which empire complicates narratives of linear and progressive national development. Rachel, like colonial space, is figured as blank site of possibility, there for the moulding and educating: ‘there was no subject in the world which she knew accurately’ (V Woolf, 1970: 30). Throughout the novel she is continually given books to read as those around her attempt to conquer or cultivate her. But as Esty writes, ‘Rachel’s uncultivated selfhood is not just […] figured in the colony; it is in some sense routed through colonialism itself as a system of exchange and production (2007: 81). Woolf suggests a ‘deep structural link between fictions of adolescence and the politics of colonialism’ (Esty, 2007: 72). This is written into the formal properties of the novel given that Rachel’s curtailed courtship with Terence Hewet also signals the rupture of the conventions of the novel genre itself in the unfulfilled marriage plot. Through set scenes (a picnic, a dance) Woolf rewrites Austen’s novels and figures her own experimental ‘voyage out’ as a novelist.

The novel opens with Helen Ambrose’s realisation that London is a ‘city of innumerable poor people’ (8). The West End, with its glittering commodities, ‘electric lamps’ and ‘vast plate-glass windows’, is only a ‘small golden tassel’ on a ‘vast black cloak’ (8). Helen’s realisation that the capitalist economy relies on a vast army of exploited labourers leads her to imagine herself as a prostitute ‘pacing a circle all the days of her life round Piccadilly Circus’ (8). Without the means to financial independence, she would be forced to become a commodity herself. Woolf, like Marx and Engels before her, considers the gender implications of an inequitable economic system: women are commodities on the streets or on the marriage market. Right from the opening of the novel, economic systems (London is figured as a giant factory) come under scrutiny. In a series of defamiliarising moves Woolf depicts attempts to ‘voyage outside’ or see beyond these systems. She uses the conventional ‘English(wo)man abroad’ genre to examine the links between literal voyaging and the perspectival shift beyond conventional ways of seeing. She alludes, also, to novels by the likes of Henry James and EM Forster which depict young Englishwomen experiencing various kinds of awakenings while on European tours. Yet her characters’ voyages seem to confirm rather than challenge their Englishness.

Woolf’s various defamiliarising tactics are also employed to undercut narratives of imperial pride or superiority. As the tourists pull away from England on their boat, the Euphrosyne, the heart of empire becomes a ‘shrinking island’, its inhabitants insignificant insects (28). But the vessel is a trading ship, ploughing the routes of Rachel’s father’s rubber and hides trade. Rachel’s father, Willoughby, ‘loved his business and built his Empire’ (19), which relies on ‘his triumphs over wretched little natives who went on strike and refused to load his ships’ (194). Not only does his success depend on the exploitation of native workers, but Helen suspects him of ‘nameless atrocities with regard to his daughter, as indeed she had always suspected him of bullying his wife’ (20). As in Three Guineas (1938) where Woolf will go on to link the fascist dictator to the controlling patriarch, Willoughby treats his employees and family with the same violent control. The MP Richard Dalloway, a guest on the Euphrosyne, imagines the history of Conservative policy: it ‘gradually enclosed, as though it were a lasso that opened and caught things, enormous chunks of the habitable globe’ (47). In the same way, he sexually assaults Rachel: women and colonial territories are there for the taking. For his wife Clarissa, being on board ship makes her reflect on what it means to be English: ‘One thinks of all we’ve done, and our navies, and the people in India and Africa, and how we’ve gone on century after century, sending out boys from little country villages’ (47). Women, too, are complicit in the jingoist narratives as they reflect men, their warships, and their conquests back at twice their natural size.

Interestingly, in choosing her colonial setting, Woolf opts for a fictional location rather than one that would have been familiar to her British readership. The colony, Santa Marina, has had, rather like Rachel, an uneven history, passed back and forth between colonising powers. Woolf offers a potted history of the colony and how ‘for want of a few thousand pounds and a few thousand men, the spark died that should have been a conflagration […] All seemed to favour the expansion of the British Empire, and had there been men like Richard Dalloway in the time of Charles the First, the map would undoubtedly be red where it is now an odious green’ (87). This then is the hidden side of empire, the sites of defeat that mean ‘English history denies all knowledge of the place’ (87). Here again, Woolf undercuts or defamiliarises British superiority and the notion of the successful, progressive movement of imperial expansion. Santa Marina represents a ‘voyage out’ from the British empire, or at least a journey to a different kind of colony populated by bohemian tourists in ‘search of something new’ (88).

Amongst these tourists are the Flushings, whose professed aesthetic motivations are entangled with a desire for profit. Mr Flushing is a collector of South American artefacts; Mrs Flushing is an aristocratic, bohemian artist, with a penchant for Augustus John and a hatred for anything more than twenty years old (196). Husband and wife mine Santa Marina for all it can give them. Mr Flushinglike a ‘very persuasive shopkeeper’tells Rachel that ‘there might be prehistoric towns, like those in Greece and Asia, standing in open places among the trees, filled with the works of this early race. Nobody had been there; scarcely anything was known’ (240). In Melymbrosia, the manuscript version of the novel, Mr Flushing imagines: ‘There may be rubies diamonds all kinds of precious stones beneath there; it’s the country of the future’ (V Woolf, 1982: 208).

In depicting a river journey by steamer in search of commodities, Woolf rewrites Conrad’s tale of the violent effects of the ivory trade in the Belgian Congo. The trip is figured as a journey ‘into the heart of the night’ (269), an excursion paralleled by the opening voyage down the Thames which evokes the Nellie, in Conrad’s tale, moored on the same river while Marlow tells his story. As in Heart of Darkness, the colonial encounter is marked by temporal ‘regression’. The tourists are repeatedly compared to Elizabethan voyagers; they are confronted with the same, unchanging scene and they arrive with the same desire to ‘colonise the world’ (268-269). But ‘the time of Elizabeth was only distant from the present time by a moment of space compared with the ages which had passed since the water had run between those banks’ (268). The encounter is a confrontation with the primeval: a temporary suspension of the ceaseless movement of modernity.

When they reach the village, Mr Flushing moves in to barter and collect his goods, but the tourists are faced with the ‘motionless inexpressive gaze’ of the indigenous women, who continue about their work, feeding their babies, plaiting straw or kneading dough (288). They stare, ‘curiously not without hostility’, but ‘soon the life of the village took no notice of them; they had become absorbed into it’ (289). Again the move is a deflationary one; the tourists become insignificant and Helen is overcome with ‘presentiments of disaster’ and the fragility of human life (290). The novel attends to the constructedness of narratives of national and imperial grandeur; Rachel is reading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (198).

Two years after the publication of The Voyage Out, Leonard was commissioned to write a study of international trade by the Fabian Society. The project narrowed in focus to Europe’s trade with, and exploitation of, Africa, but also expanded to become a vast, empirical study based on reams of data. Empire and Commerce in Africa: A Study in Economic Imperialism was published in 1920 by the Labour Research Department and George Allen and Unwin. Woolf was, in the 1920s, ‘the Labour movement’s leading anti-imperialist thinker’ and that same year he co-drafted the policy document that committed the Labour Party to the goal of a ‘political system of self-government’ in Africa (Wilson, 2003: 84). Leonard’s thesis, briefly stated, is that in the late nineteenth century, imperialism moved into a new phase, one driven solely by economic gain. The reason for this shift, according to Woolf, was the reorganisation of the nation state around efficiency and economic acquisition. ‘Nationalism’, he notes, ‘wherever it has appeared, has applied itself most violently to economic ends’ (10). Joseph Chamberlain, advocate of a system of colonial preferential tariffs, is a key figure in this narrative. For Chamberlain, Woolf argues, imperial prestige and power is not an end in itself but a means to profit: empire is commerce (L Woolf, 1998: 18). Woolf quotes Chamberlain’s famous 1896 speech to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce: ‘commerce is the greatest of all political interests’ (L Woolf, 1998: 13). The supposed duty of the European nation state to protect and maximise its commercial interests has resulted in the use of its power in the world outside the nation for the benefit of those within its borders (16).

Woolf then moves on to the effects of this triad of nationalism, industrialisation and commercialisation on Africa: economic slavery and political subjection. The search for markets and raw materials, he argues, resulted in the violent conversion of the whole of Africa and Asia into ‘mere appendages of the European state’ (L Woolf, 1998: 10). The African policy of the European states has, he states, ‘been comparatively simple and direct. It is the policy of grab’ (55). After discussion of the ‘scramble for Africa’complete with maps that starkly depict the internal colonisation of the continent between 1880 and 1914Woolf focuses primarily on north and east Africa (Algeria, Tunis, Abyssinia, Zanzibar as well as the Belgian Congo). The focus, then, is as much on French, Italian and Belgian imperialism, as on British. Pages of charts detailing European colonisation and including territories acquired and their populations, dates of acquisition, square mileage of colonised areas provides another mode through which to register the subjection of Africa to the ‘full dominion of European states’ (59).

He then goes on to examine the effects of economic imperialism on both coloniser and colonised, arguing that in fact the profits derived from the possession of colonial territories (either in terms of raw materials or new markets) are negligible and only benefit private financiers and traders. In page after page of detailed empirical evidence regarding imports and exports, Woolf proves that ‘the economic beliefs behind economic imperialism are dreams and delusions’ (330). In the section on British East Africa, for example, extensive data demonstrates that ‘British possessions there are of negligible importance to British industry, whether as sources of supply for raw material or as markets for manufactures’ (334). Not only that, he articulates the effects of imperialism on native populations. In British East Africa, he describes the ‘remarkable fact that not one single acre of this land is either leased or sold to the native inhabitants of the country’ (338). The Masai, dispossessed of their land by Europeans, have been forced into effective slavery:

The white settler has taken the best land from the native. The Reserves are to be cut down until they are unable to support the native population: thus the native will be forced out of the Reserve, and in order to escape starvation will be compelled to work upon the white man’s land for the wage offered to him […] then we Europeans are to congratulate ourselves because, as Mr Chamberlain explained, we are not only doing good to ourselves by getting cheap labour, but also doing good to the natives by convincing them ‘of the necessity and dignity of labour’ at twopence a day. (351)

The detached register is punctuated now and again with impassioned moments denouncing the ‘evils’ of economic imperialism: ‘Slavery, drink and rifles, and the bloodshed and degradation which capitalism, in its hunger for profits and dividends [..] has carried into every bay and river and forest of Africa, can never be atoned for’ (259). Empire and Commerce, like The Voyage Out, works in conversation with Heart of Darkness, given Conrad’s emphasis on the murderous effects of the search for valuable commodities. More specifically, Leonard treats the colonisation of the Congo region by King Leopold of Belgium. Here, however, the question of register is paramount. Woolf states that he does not ‘propose to enter’ into the ‘incredible brutality’ of the system (311) but to offer an empirical and factual account of the period of Belgian rule. He will rely on ‘official documents and treaties’ rather than the ‘atmosphere of temporary passion and prejudice’ generated by ‘the books or evidence of, for instance, Mr. E. D. Morel’ (304). Morel, along with Roger Casement, had exposed the atrocities committed by King Leopold in journalism and his book The Scandal of the Congo: Britain’s Duty (1904). Woolf knew Morel through the Union of Democratic Control, which he joined in 1915 (D Wilson, 1978: 93). Woolf goes on to investigate the Belgian Congo as an instance in which the rhetoric of international government masked private economic gain. While economic theorists of empire have subsequently found flaws in Leonard’s argumentits eurocentrism, its overemphasis on economics and formal imperialism, its implication that mid-Victorian imperialism was fuelled by differing motiveswhat is significant here is the scope and depth of Woolf’s deconstruction of imperialist rhetoric and propaganda.

Woolf’s argument is clearly influenced by the writing of JA Hobson, particularly Imperialism: A Study (1902), the first systematic treatment of capitalist imperialism. In turn, Lenin’s Imperialism: Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) acknowledges his debt to Hobson, as Dominic Davies’s essay further explores below. Leonard reviewed Hobson’s Towards International Government in 1915 and knew of him via the Union of Democratic Control founded in 1914 in opposition to the outbreak of war (D Wilson, 1978: 93). Hobson was sent by the Manchester Guardian to report on the Boer War, where he saw first-hand how the diamond and gold mining industries had dictated colonial policy. Like Woolf after him, Hobson stresses that rather than being crucial to Britain’s economic prosperity, imperialism is a drain on the nation’s resources:

Absorbing the public money, time, interest and energy on costly and unprofitable work of territorial aggrandisement, it thus wastes those energies of public life in the governing classes and the nations which are needed for internal reforms and for the cultivation of arts of material and intellectual progress at home. Finally, the spirit, the policy, and the methods of Imperialism are hostile to the institutions of popular self-government, favouring forms of political tyranny and social authority which are the deadly enemies of effective liberty and equality. (Hobson, 1988: 152)

Imperialism, as a doctrine of civilizational progress or moral destiny, is entirely exploded: it is ‘a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness’ (Hobson, 1988: 368). He, unlike Woolf, treats a range of factors—patriotism, philanthropy, missionary zeal—but argues ultimately that the main driver is financial, specifically the outlet for surplus wealth in foreign markets and investments. The economic motivation is buttressed by ‘the verbal armoury of Imperialism’ (Hobson, 1988: 207). Woolf would, in later writings such as Imperialism and Civilisation (1928), relinquish his insistence on mono-causalism. While he continued to argue that economic factors were the primary motivation behind imperialism, he allowed more space for secondary drivers such as prestige, power and religious or cultural domination. Interestingly, too, in The Voyage Out, Virginia Woolf distributes a range of motivating factors amongst the travellers to South America, from the desire for newness or authenticity to a belief in cultural and political superiority.

Peter Wilson has convincingly suggested that in the 1920s and 30s Leonard Woolf ‘assumed Hobson’s mantle as Britain’s foremost anti-imperialist theorist’ (Wilson, 2003: 83). What Leonard brought to the debate was much fuller and more carefully researched evidence for Hobson’s thesis. As Barrett describes, reviews of Empire and Commerce repeatedly praised the research carried out for the project (2013: 87). Leonard acknowledges one of his research assistants, Alix Sargent-Florence, for her ‘valuable help in research for Part II’. The other researcher, his wife, goes unacknowledged in the text. Of the 783 5” by 8” notecards, as Barrett describes, 666 were Virginia’s notes taken from British consular reports on international trade. The remaining 117 cards contain notes on Virginia’s reading about Africa, ‘mainly in the form of carefully referenced quotations rather than summaries of arguments’ (Barrett, 2013: 87). Notes relating to the following books, for example, make their way directly into Empire and Commerce: PL McDermot, British East Africa (1895), Lugard’s The Rise of Our East African Empire and Wylde’s Modern Abyssinia (1901).

Just before its publication, as Barrett records, Virginia writes in her diary: ‘Reading Empire & Commerce to my genuine satisfaction, with an impartial delight in the closeness, passion, & logic of it; indeed it’s a good thing now & then to read one’s husband’s work attentively’ (V Woolf, 1978: 50). This response is intriguing, given her contribution to a project that could almost be considered a collaborative work. It underscores her genuine interest in the material, suggesting that her extensive research was motivated by more than a desire to assist Leonard with a ‘useful but mindless task’ during a period of ill health (Barrett, 2013: 110). For a writer as socially and politically observant as Virginia Woolf, this amount of reading cannot but have influenced her own writing projects. Barrett notes the possible presence of the work in Night and Day, which she was writing concurrently (2013: 118). The same might be said of the description of North’s work as a sheep farmer in Africa in The Years. Methodologically, too, the work suggests the kind of research she undertook in the 1930s in preparation for The Years, which started out as an essay-novel, The Pargiters. These scrapbooks, however, unlike her work for Leonard, included her own comments and the creative juxtaposition of newspaper clippings and quotations. Having said that, as Barrett argues by comparing the quotes noted by Virginia with their appearance in the published work: ‘The research notes for Empire and Commerce lend credence to the view that Virginia was an unequivocal supporter of her husband’s very public stance as a leading critic of imperialism. If anything, her notes are more anti-imperialist, more tending towards the damning quotation, than the final book that he published’ (Barrett, 2013: 113). In the 1930s, one can see a reversal of methodology: Virginia’s polemic Three Guineas (1938) is full of facts and figures, and Leonard’s Quack! Quack! (1935) focuses on the psychology of authoritarianism.

Virginia’s material on Abyssinia would have been a particularly resonant aspect of her research. In 1910, while working on The Voyage Out, she had been involved in the infamous Dreadnought Hoax. Masterminded by Anglo-Irishman Horace Cole, a group of friends including Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant and Adrian Stephen boarded the HMS Dreadnought disguised as Abyssinian princes and their entourage. The group were in blackface, complete with false beards and moustaches. Woolf’s brother, Adrian, was the translator, and although they had purchased a Swahili grammar and attempted a few words in the train on the way down to the south coast, they resorted to Greek and Latin during the escapade. No one was any the wiser. They were met by crowds, files of marines, Admiral May and the Zanzibar anthem (as the British officials hadn’t been able to source the Abyssinian anthem). They were toured around the ship, shown its intimate details from the newest wireless equipment to the officers’ bathrooms. All went to plan, despite some precarious moments involving slipping moustaches. An extra frisson was provided by the presence of the Stephen’s cousin, Willy Fisher, Flag Commander of the Dreadnought. The prank made a mockery of British naval security and ridiculed the might of the military at this politically sensitive pre-war moment. The hoax sent shock waves through the British establishment when the news broke on the front page of the Express (12 February 1910). Significantly, the anti-imperialism of The Voyage Out centres on naval power and the sea routes of empire. In that novel, Clarissa Dalloway’s response to the sight of warships, ‘eyeless beasts seeking their prey’, seen from the Euphrosyne is an eroticised squeal of patriotic excitement (V Woolf, 1970: 65).

In 1910 Abyssinia was a potent symbol of colonial resistance and independence in the face of Italian invasion attempts. This symbolism would, of course, intensify into the 1930s with Rastafarianism and the Italo-Ethiopian war on which Leonard would publish The League and Abyssinia in 1936. Leonard Woolf notes in Empire and Commerce that: ‘the position of Abyssinia in Africa is peculiar. To-day it is the only native State which has retained even the semblance of independence’ (1998: 140). Virginia Woolf read and took notes on three source texts for the ‘Abyssinia and the Nile’ chapter of Empire and Commerce: Augustus Wylde’s Modern Abyssinia (1901), C de la Jonquière’s Les Italiens en Erythrée (1897), and Jean Darcy’s France et Angleterre: Cent Années de Rivalité Coloniale L’Afrique (1904) (Barrett, 2013: 96). She also read and took notes in Italian on a book by Dr Lincoln de Castro, Nella Terra de Negus: pagine raccolte in Abissinia (1915), which finds its way into Empire and Commerce only through a passing reference (Barrett, 2013: 93). These sources inform Leonard’s account of Menelik’s ‘crushing victory at Adowa on March 1, 1896’ (Woolf, 1989: 173). ‘At Adowa’, he writes, ‘the Italian hopes of an Empire of Ethiopia were definitely and dramatically destroyed’ (173). In The Voyage Out, too, Abyssinia/Ethiopia appears in the context of Roman imperialist designs on North Africa that echo those of contemporary Europe. Rachel reads from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall: ‘His generals, in the early part of his reign, attempted the reduction of Aethiopia and Arabia Felix’ (V Woolf, 1970: 173). As Rachel learns, the Romans are thwarted by climate and ‘the unwarlike natives’ are protected from invasion (173). The links with the earlier descriptions of Santa Marina’s colonial fortunes are plain to see.

In Empire and Commerce, Leonard looks specifically at the European missionary presence in Africa as ‘the thin edge of the wedge of European imperialism’ (145). He details how, through the London Society of the Conversion of the Jews in Absyssinia and the Church Missionary Society in Uganda, the work of church, business and state are intertwined. In The Voyage Out, the tourists attend chapel and hear a sermon by Mr Bax. This is a crucial scene in the novel in terms of Rachel’s awakening: ‘for the first time in her life […] Rachel listened critically to what was being said’ (V Woolf, 1970: 231). Bax’s sermon revolves around Europeans’ ‘duty to the natives’ and the importance of sympathy and human connectedness in the context of empire. ‘The success of our rule in India, that vast country, largely depended upon the strict code of politeness which the English adopted towards the natives’, he intones (234). Rachel is ‘enraged’ by the hypocrisy and emptiness of Christian rhetoric. She figures the congregation as sheep and limpets, ‘tamely praising and acquiescing without knowing and caring’ (236). This prefigures the encounter on the Amazon River. It too is a Conradian moment of ‘disgust and horror’: ‘with the violence that now marked her feelings, she rejected all that she had implicitly believed’ (V Woolf, 1970: 236, 232). Virginia suggests here (as Leonard would go on to do) the ways in which discourses of brotherly love masked the violent effects of mercantile greed.

As this comparative reading demonstrates, setting The Voyage Out alongside Empire and Commerce not only elucidates the congruence of Leonard and Virginia’s work, but also reminds us of the ways in which Virginia’s novel pre-empts Leonard’s later theoretical writings. From her very first novel, she was figuring the capitalist underside of imperialism and was linking imperial control to the workings of patriarchy and religion. Interestingly, at the close of Empire and Commerce, Leonard connects the ‘evils’ of capitalist imperialism to ‘prostitution, wife-beating, and marriage’ (361). Again, he uses the phrase, ‘buying cheap and selling dear’, to encapsulate a social philosophy of competition (361). But the juxtaposition of these texts also highlights discontinuity. In contrast to Leonard’s scathing exposé of the violent effects of European colonisation in Africa, in The Voyage Out the Flushings’ exploitation of the South American peoples appears to have no effect. The villagers stare back, unconcerned and disinterested. More generally, by depicting the thwarted British presence in South America (as opposed, for example, to the effects of Spanish or Portuguese imperialism in the region), Woolf downplays the effects of empire in favour of depicting the psychological, social and cultural factors that drive people to control and tyrannise. The Flushings’ enterprise is small-scale but in the frequent references to South America as the land of the future, the reader can see how the seemingly benign river trip operates on a continuum with a much more violent encounter (as depicted in Heart of Darkness).

Putting these texts in conversation with one another also highlights the limitations of the Woolfs’ anti-imperialism and their inability to imagine or account for full subjecthood for colonial peoples. Leonard’s repeated reference to ‘non-adult races’ and his underlying insistence on the non-civilised state of African peoples parallels the depiction of the South American villagers in The Voyage Out as eternally primitive and unchanging. In his closing section headed ‘The Future of Africa’, Leonard deliberates on the ‘social revolution’ required to put an end to the exploitation of Africa by European states. Only when ‘the social philosophy of capitalism and competition, the ideal of profit-making and buying cheap and selling dear’ gives way to another system of ‘beliefs and desires’ will the interests of Africans be realised (361). He envisages a future in which ‘the “native” is no longer to be regarded as the “live-stock” on Europe’s African estate […] but as a human being with a right to his own land and his own life, with a right even to be educated and to determine his own destiny’ (359). An international system of trusteeship, run by the League of Nations, for example, if it continues to operate on the profit motive will merely continue the current state of slavery: ‘economic imperialists will rebaptize themselves in the waters of internationalism and put on the white garments of a League of Nations’ (367). Woolf moves back and forwards between what he calls utopian dreams of a fundamentally reimagined relationship between European and African and acknowledgement that a League-run system of mandates, while open to abuse, is an improvement on the current situation and a possible transition to self-government. Written while the issue of mandates was being debated at the Paris Conference, this section segues between practical lists of conditions and hope for a ‘new generation of men’ (366).

In their respective deliberations on empire, however, both Leonard and Virginia raise the issue of the connections between cultural production and global trade systems. Leonard includes reference to ‘products of the intellect or imagination’ in the Empire and Commerce passage quoted at the outset. In The Voyage Out, the Flushings’ trade in South American artefacts profits from a metropolitan fetishization of the ‘primitive’ as the sign of the modern. As a couple, their combined interests in ancient South American and modernist art points to the Janus-faced position of modernist aesthetics. The economics of their ethnographic motivations underscore the commodification of the non-European. As Willoughby says to his daughter, ‘if it weren’t for the goats there’d be no music, my dear; music depends upon goats’ (18). Woolf narrativises the modernist desire for, fear of, and commodification of the ‘primitive’. The Voyage Out circles around the unfulfilled search for newness, or for places outside the workings of capitalist modernity, but ultimately points to the impossibility of such a project. Early in the novel, Helen is embroidering ‘a tropical river running through a tropical forest, where spotted deer would eventually browse upon masses of fruit, bananas, oranges, and giant pomegranates, while a troop of naked natives whirled darts into the air’ (29). The trip up the Amazon is an encounter with the already seen, a place constructed through a European lens. As Mark Wollaeger (2001) has argued, the scene suggests the native villages so popular in Empire Exhibitions of the period as well as the trend for ethnographic, colonial postcards. The tourists are already implicated in modes of viewing that commodify. Rachel’s moment of awakening on the excursionwhich ultimately leads to her deathcan be read as an awareness of her complicity with such systems of capture.

But here Woolf also implicates herself. In finding a ‘new’ subject for fiction, as with Leonard’s Village in the Jungle, she also had a product to sell. Interestingly, in Leonard’s autobiography he spends several pages describing the twinned fortunes of The Voyage Out and The Village in the Jungle in terms of the royalties they generated (L Woolf, 1964: 87-90). Both Leonard and Virginia were, of course, sustained by the very system they were both intent on denaturalising. Yet this awareness, along with that of empire’s exploitations, was developed dialogically between and across their different writing projects. The literal repetition in their writing demonstrates, I hope, a wider symbiosis in their empire writing: one which operates across genres and in often surprising directions.






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