Festa, Lynn

Festa, Lynn

The Postcolonial Enlightenment: Eighteenth-Century Colonialisms and Postcolonial Theory

Published Date: Oxford Press, 2009
Lynn Festa

festa 2009

Over the last thirty years, postcolonial critiques of European imperial practices have transformed our understanding of colonial ideology, resistance, and cultural contact. The Enlightenment has played a complex but often unacknowledged role in this discussion, alternately reviled and venerated as the harbinger of colonial dominion and avatar of liberation, as target and shield, as shadow and light. This volume brings together two arenas—eighteenth century studies and postcolonial theory—in order to interrogate the role and reputation of Enlightenment in the context of early European colonial ambitions and postcolonial interrogations of Western imperial aspirations. With essays by leading scholars in the field, Postcolonial Enlightenment addresses issues central not only to literature and philosophy, but also to natural history, religion, law, and the emerging sciences of man. The contributors situate a range of writers—from Hobbes and Herder, Behn and Burke, to Defoe and Diderot—in relation both to eighteenth century colonial practices and to key concepts within current postcolonial theory concerning race, globalization, human rights, sovereignty, and national and personal identity. By enlarging the temporal and geographic framework through which we read, the essays in this volume open up alternate genealogies for categories, events and ideas central to the emergence of global modernity. Contributors include: Siraj Ahmed, Srinivas Aravamudan, Daniel Carey, Lynn Festa, Doris Garraway, Suvir Kaul, David Lloyd, Felicity Nussbaum, Karen O'Brien, and Sven Trakulhun.


Published Date: John Hopkins University Press, 2006

Lynn Festa

altIn this ambitious and original study, Professor Festa examines how and why sentimental fiction became one of the primary ways of representing British and French relations with colonial populations in the eighteenth century. Drawing from novels, poetry, travel narratives, commerce manuals, and philosophical writings, Professor Festa shows how sentimentality shaped communal and personal assertions of identity in an age of empire. Read in isolation, sentimental texts can be made to tell a simple story about the emergence of the modern psychological self. Placed in conversation with empire, however, sentimentality invites both psychological and cultural readings of the encounter between self and other.

Sentimental texts, Professor Festa claims, enabled readers to create powerful imagined relations to distant people; yet, these emotional bonds simultaneously threatened the boundaries between self and other, civilized and savage, colonizer and colonized. Professor Festa argues that sentimental tropes and figures allowed readers to feel for others, while maintaining the particularity of the individual self. Sentimental identification thus operated as a form of differentiation as well as consolidation. Professor Festa contends that global reach increasingly outstripped imaginative grasp during this era. Sentimentality became an important tool for writers on empire, allowing conquest to be portrayed as commerce, and scenes of violence and exploitation to be converted into displays of benevolence and pity. Above all, sentimental texts used emotion as an important form of social and cultural distinction, as the attribution of sentience and feeling helped to define who would be recognized as human.