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Chinese Rhetoric: China in British Periodical Literature, 1811–1842

YAN, TSZ,TING (2021) Chinese Rhetoric: China in British Periodical Literature, 1811–1842. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 14 December 2024.


This study has two purposes: first, by collecting and examining a body of China-related periodical writings previously unexplored as an assorted whole, it aims to recover the literary presence of China in the British periodical space in the early decades of the nineteenth century when a mass reading public developed. Second, and more important, this study aims to explore the role China plays in this body of literature by focusing on the domestic relevance of the invocation of China to the immediate concerns of the British society. Positing that cross-cultural writing answers not only to the dynamic of national relations but also to specific moments in domestic and private history, this study offers a contextualised reading of Britain’s ‘Chinese’ writings against the multifaceted ethos of the time, from the political activism of the Regency period to the social advocacy of the early Victorian age. This study, in other words, does not seek to dilate on the image or reception of China in Britain, nor does it look at British representation of China as the product of cultural hegemony or imperial design; rather, it enquires into the way China is written into Britain’s political, social, and cultural consciousness through popular literature, and argues for the usefulness in understanding British engagement with China, or ‘the other’, as a means to discover, express, criticise, and rectify the self. In identifying such a use of China as ‘Chinese rhetoric’, this study ultimately calls attention to an ‘instrumental’ aspect of British orientalism that hinges on an autocritical and self-reflexive interest, an interest that renders China, or more generally the Orient, a pliant agency of literary expression.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:orientalism; cosmopolitanism; chinoiserie; satire; humour; magazine; Regency; Romantic literature; Victorian literature
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Dec 2021 15:40

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