I think I need to feel my way through the intro chapter of the actual diss before doing the prospectus. Here are some more odds and ends:

  • The longue durée: How does the Victorian relationship between China and England fit into the history of Anglo-Chinese relations starting from, say 1500 to now? One of the large motivations of my project has been the work of the so-called California School of Andre Gunder Frank, Pomeranz, and Roy Bin Wong. These economic historians argue that modernity is not the story of a European center spreading modernity to the periphery (nor the center’s exploitation of the periphery) but that before 1800 China and Europe were on par in terms of economic development. Frank argues that if anything, pre-1800, China ought to be considered the center and Europe the periphery.
    This is reflected in European representations of China from largely positive pre-1800 to largely negative post-1800. So, the Victorian period is particularly interesting as the time when the image of the inferior Chinese is being constructed, replacing earlier more positive constructions.
    So is China then demonized in Victorian literature? Not really, I’ve found. In fact, it doesn’t show up all that often, especially during the mid-Victorian period. Consider:

    • None of the major Victorian writers paid much attention to China. Contrast this with the eighteenth century, when you’ve got Leibnitz writing Novissima Sinica (1697), Defoe setting the sequel to Crusoe partly in China (1719), Voltaire’s play l’Orphelin de la Chinebased on a translated Chinese drama (1755), and Oliver Goldsmith’s Citizen of the World (1760), a series of fictional letters of a Chinese traveller in England. In the twentieth century, you’ve got Ezra Pound, Bertolt Brecht, and the Tel Quel crew (Eric Hayot’s Chinese Dreams is about these). In the nineteenth century, you’ve got Charles Lamb’s “Old China,” but that’s earlier in the century, and that’s about it, at least as far as my research has gone so far.
    • From around 1810-1830, there was a spat of Chinese literature translated into English (when they were first able to translate Chinese). Then, not so much until the end of the century.
    • There’s lots going on in China in the middle of the nineteenth century: two Opium Wars, and the Taiping Rebellion, by far the largest war of the nineteenth century. And there’s the “Opening of China” after the first Opium War.
  • “From China to Peru,” from Dr. Johnson’s “The Vanity of Human Wishes” (1749), it shows up quite a bit in Victorian lit. Interestingly, according to a quick Google Book Search digging, it only becomes a popular expression after 1820 or so, perhaps because the poem had been heavily anthologized. I assume that the good doctor chose China and Peru more or less arbitrarily, but in terms of global commerce, the Spanish galleon trade to China from Peru’s silver mine was immensely important. See what I mean about random bits of information that will work well in an intro chapter but not a prospectus? **sigh**
  • “Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay”: from Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall.” See, there’s totes poetry in my dissertation!

I wrote the previous about a week or two ago. I’m not thinking of any other odds and ends at the moment–perhaps it’s time to start the prospectus?