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The Racial Hand in the Victorian Imagination

$28.99 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: October 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107538917

$ 28.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The hands of colonized subjects - South Asian craftsmen, Egyptian mummies, harem women, and Congolese children - were at the crux of Victorian discussions of the body that tried to come to terms with the limits of racial identification. While religious, scientific, and literary discourses privileged hands as sites of physiognomic information, none of these found plausible explanations for what these body parts could convey about ethnicity. As compensation for this absence, which might betray the fact that race was not actually inscribed on the body, fin-de-siècle narratives sought to generate models for how non-white hands might offer crucial means of identifying and theorizing racial identity. They removed hands from a holistic corporeal context and allowed them to circulate independently from the body to which they originally belonged. Severed hands consequently served as 'human tools' that could be put to use in a number of political, aesthetic, and ideological contexts.

    • Offers an innovative way of understanding Victorian conceptions of empire and race
    • Its focus reflects a growing scholarly interest on hands in Victorian literature and culture
    • Provides fresh readings of familiar as well as lesser known narratives
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Racial Hand in the Victorian Imagination is an essential read for Victorian, Modernist, and even Postmodern and Contemporary scholars. Briefel’s excellent book contributes to the fields of hand, literary rape, feminist, postcolonial, and posthuman studies, demanding that we explore the ethical implications of reading the hand in the Victorian imagination as a signifier of either individual or collective identity by contending with questions of race all too often overlooked.' Kimberly Cox, The British Society for Literature and Science Reviews

    '… rich, cogent, and eminently readable … Briefel's book is an indispensable part of an emerging area of focus in nineteenth-century studies … Marshaling a rich array of historical, scientific, popular, and literary texts with a deft and restrained critical touch, Briefel has offered the reader a gift - one dropped gently into our hands.' Daniel A. Novak, Novel: A Forum on Fiction

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107538917
    • length: 234 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 154 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The case of the blank hand: race and manual legibility
    2. Potters and prosthetics: putting Indian hands to work
    3. The mummy's hand: art and evolution
    4. A hand for a hand: punishment, responsibility, and imperial desire
    5. Crimes of the hand: manual violence and the Congo

  • Author

    Aviva Briefel, Bowdoin College, Maine
    Aviva Briefel is Professor of English and Cinema Studies at Bowdoin College, Maine. She is the author of The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century (2006) and the co-editor of Horror after 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror (2011).

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