Treasure and Travesty: Refractions of Victorian Imperialism Through Selected Contemporary Literature


Racism is pervasive. Modernity shows that race broaches constant invocation, nearly becoming the standard for relations, internal and international. Moored in dominance and arrogance, the impact of race swelled uncontrollably during the imperial surge of the nineteenth century. Invasion, partition, and exploitation of Africa sowed its latent seeds and nurtured it into the irascible weed of today. During Queen Victoria’s reign, Britain expanded its colonial holdings to almost one-quarter of the earth. Nationalistic zealotry and desire to “civilize those less fortunate” fueled this expansion, and societal culture thrived on rigid principles of heroism, chivalry, and mettle. Contemporary writers such as H Rider Haggard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Joseph Conrad relied on these and other Victorian values in their various Adventure Novels, wherein courageous characters presented as great men worthy of emulation. These authors and their peers incorporated and adapted white superiority over “natives,” rationalizing and propagating racial arrogance and the emergent racial paradigm. The sheer magnitude of their readership elucidates not only mass ingestion of their messages, but also a broad and unshakeable fastening of racism to human consciousness. Coupling history of Africa’s imperial fate with analysis of contemporary literature highlights the exacerbation of the racial paradigm. Though watersheds like imperial enterprise and common values leave the door far ajar when it comes to sufficient address of racism’s violent cornerstones, increased understanding of its conflagration through heroes and literature can foster more comprehensive discussion of its implications, misapplications, and volatile potential.

Author Information
Lauren Cruz, Chapman University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2017
Stream: Humanities - Literature/Literary Studies*

This paper is part of the ECAH2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon