Letteratura inglese e colonialismo
a kind of ghost, marginal figure. Second phase (industrial colonialism): she
First colonial phase:
occupies central areas in the narration but is always regarded as an inferior, primitive being – only
considered for her reproductive force. Colonized women are doubly inferior (because of their sex
and race). mixed relationships are to be condemned since they come to influence the pureness
of the race, lascivious behaviours are permitted among people belonging to the same racial groups.
Haggard’s She: significant deviation from this idea of femininity: Ayesha’s domination over man is
total and unequalled, she is young and beautiful and rules her society. She is eventually submitted to
the hero/adventurer, meaning that nature succumbs to science, and colonies to the imperial city. Her
beauty is therefore illusory, limited to the African world.
Reference: Elio di Piazza, L’avventura bianca, Bari, Adriatica, 1999.
“Then suddenly there was a disturbance, and involuntarily I opened my eyes again, and looked
towards the scene of murder. The girl Ustane had thrown herself on Leo's prostrate form, covering
his body with her body, and fastening her arms about his neck. They tried to drag her from him, but
she twisted her legs round his, and hung on like a bulldog, or rather like a creeper to a tree, and they
could not. Then they tried to stab him in the side without hurting her, but somehow she shielded
him, and he was only wounded.” Lei
“Improvvisamente, udii come un leggero tafferuglio, riaprii gli occhi, e vidi che la ragazza, Ustane,
si era gettata sul corpo di Leo, per coprirlo col proprio. Gli uomini cercavano di trascinarla via, ma
lei si avvinghiava a Leo con le gambe, e non lo lasciava andare, come un bulldog aggrappato alla
preda, o piuttosto come un rampicante attorno a un albero; non riuscivano a scostarla di un
centimetro. Allora provarono a trafiggerlo di fianco, ma in qualche modo Ustane seppe fargli scudo,
e Leo rimase soltanto ferito.” Sir Henry Rider Haggard
Norfolk, 22nd June 1856 – London, 14th May 1925
Norfolk, 22nd June 1856 – London, 14th May 1925
Henry Rider Haggard, the sixth son of William and Ella Haggard, was born at Bradenham
Hall, Norfolk, England on June 20, 1856. His father was a flamboyant lawyer and country squire
who ruled his household strictly. His eccentricity as a lawyer earned him considerable local
notoriety, and his abusive treatment of his tenants and servants made him infamous throughout the
Though his father's short temper often made home life difficult, Haggard's gentle mother
was a published poet,
compensated somewhat for her husband's volatile behaviour. Ella Haggard
and she encouraged her son's interest in reading. Haggard read with relish such works as the
Arabian Nights' Entertainment, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and Alexandre Dumas's The
of all types, and his childhood reading anticipated
Three Musketeers. Haggard loved adventure tales
the exciting fiction which he himself would write years later. and after attending a small country
Young Haggard was not considered a promising student,
school he went to grammar school in Ipswich for three years, where his academic performance was
Squire Haggard secured his son an appointment to the staff of a friend, Sir Henry Bulwer,
who had been appointed lieutenant-governor of Natal in South Africa. Thus, in 1875, at nineteen,
Haggard made his first trip to Africa, the continent that would be the setting of many of his most
famous stories. While in South Africa Haggard kept detailed notebooks describing both the native
Zulus and his own travels throughout the country.
in South Africa, and after leaving the service, he bought a
He intended to settle permanently
farm in Natal province.
During a brief return to England in 1880, he fell in love with and married Marianna Louisa
Margitson, a friend of his sister, and returned with her to South Africa. But the warfare between the
British and the Boers had worsened and he feared for the safety of his wife and infant son. The
family sold their belongings, and on August 31, 1880, returned to England.
In 1882 Haggard published (at his own expense) a book on the situation in South Africa and
began writing fiction.
His first two novels, Dawn (1884) and The Witch's Head (1884) were critical successes but
financial failures. Though his desire for a literary career was growing, he could not support his
family as a writer. He finished his law studies and decided to give up writing fiction to devote
himself entirely to law. But Haggard's resolution was shortlived. Having bet his brother that he
could write a better novel than Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, he took six weeks to
complete the manuscript of an adventure story set in Africa.
He entitled it King Solomon's Mines. When King Solomon's Mines appeared on September
30, 1885, it was an immediate success. Haggard quickly wrote a sequel entitled Allan Quatermain
and in 1886, published his most famous novel, She. By the end of that year, Haggard had decided to
abandon law and devote himself completely to a career as a writer.
In 1905 Haggard was at the peak of his career. In the fall of that year, the sequel to She—
entitled Ayesha, The Return of She—was published. It sold an amazing 25,000 copies in the first
edition, and many of his previous works were being reprinted, sometimes in expensive, illustrated
Haggard's last years were spent writing, speaking, and travelling. The outbreak of World
War I dampened sales of his books, and he was forced to sell his farming interests. However, some
of his later novels, like Moon of Israel (1919), still sold respectably well. Nevertheless, until his
death on May 14, 1925, he remained discouraged by the declining sales of his works. The
readership of England had changed. The horrible realities of World War I and the deterioration of
the British Empire had left English and American readers little affinity for the adventurous modern
fantasy of Haggard's work. WORKS
3 main groups:
ROMANCES OF ADVENTURE
- HISTORICAL ROMANCES
- ROMANCES OF CONTEMPORARY LIFE
A history of South Africa
Books on gardening and agriculture
Two books on the Salvation Army
Articles and letters to periodicals
An Autobiorgraphy (The Cloak that I Left) Historical fiction:
Fifty-eight volumes of fiction:
Dawn (1884) Montezuma’s Daughter (1893)
The Witch’s Head (1884) Nada de Lily (1892)
King Solomon’s Mines (1885) The World’s Desire
Allan Quatermain (1887) (1890, with Andrew Lang)
The People of the Mist (1894)
Ayesha: The Return of She (1905)
Wisdom’s Daughter (1923)
She and Allan (1921) Rider Haggard
Commonly regarded as or as an unreconstructed
writer of adventure stories British imperialist.
Haggard’s fiction reflects imperial dissent, idealistic beliefs in the
relationship between England and Africa, anticipates innovative cultural and anthropological
Haggard’s novels: complex works with multiple levels of interpretation → historical,
mythic, gender, political, and religious.
The expansion of exploration, trade, and colonial settlement in the late nineteenth century
had stimulated a curiosity about primitive peoples. Thus, adventure novels such as King Solomon’s
Mines, even if with a fantastic setting, were also implicated in Victorian politics and
Merits of Haggard’s novels:
- They covertly support racial mixing in their love plots;
- They claim native religious powers as superior to European religion;
- They celebrate autonomous female figures who defy patriarchal control.
He is Haggard’s alter ego, an emblem of the European in dark Africa. Haggard’s hero was the son
of an idealistic missionary: “one of the gentlest and most refined men that I ever met; even the most
savage Kaffir loved him, and his influence was a very good one for me. He used to call himself one
of the world’s failures. Would that there were more such failures”*
R. Haggard, Allan’s Wife and Other Tales, 1889.
The Origin of Species
Charles Darwin, (1859)
This work introduced theories according to which primitive peoples were evolutionarily
arrested. Such inferior races should not intermarry with Europeans.
This view is partly present in Haggard’s novels, but more than a mere racist claim, it should be
regarded as a result of the influence of the Late Victorian mentality, shaped on the colonial
experience as well as on books such as Darwin’s The Origin of Species
Wendy Katz defined Haggard “an Imperial propagandist” who “contributed to the shaping of
As all colonial writers, Haggard must be seen in his historical context. It is also a question of
“language”, on how words are used.
1. helped to create an image of Empire
Haggard 2. gave us a ‘sense of history’
*Wendy Katz, Rider Haggard and the Fiction of Empire, 1987.
The story takes place during the late nineteenth century, the era the book was written.
Horace Holly's account begins in Cambridge, England, where he lives a solitary life as a scholar. As
the guardian of his dead friend's son, Leo Vincey, Holly accompanies the handsome young man on
his quest to Africa to avenge the death of his ancient ancestor, an Egyptian priest named Kallikrates.
Centuries ago Kallikrates had been killed by the goddess Ayesha when he rejected her love
for that of another woman. On his twenty-fifth birthday, Leo Vincey learns that, because he is the
sole descendant of the ancient family of Kallikrates, it is his duty to "seek out the woman [Ayesha,
or She] and learn the secret of Life, and if thou mayest, find a way to slay her." Leo also learns that
his own father had tried to carry out these ancient instructions but failed. Leo Vincey, Horace Holly,
and their servant Job set out for Africa (Zanzibar). Once there, he is brought face to face with
Ayesha, She-who-must-be-obeyed: dictator, femme fatale, tyrant and beauty. She has been waiting
for centuries for the true descendant of Kallikrates, her murdered lover…..
- Horace Holly: a scholar from Cambridge University, he is the narrator of the story
- Leo Vincey, a handsome young man, Holly’s protégé and protagonist of the story
- Job, Holly and Leo’s servant
- She, or Ayesha, the immortal queen of the Amahaggers
- Ustane, a native young woman who falls in love with Leo
The key to the successful rendering of settings in She lies in Haggard's ability to move from the
familiar, civilized world of late nineteenth century England to the unfamiliar, fantastic, and even
incredible world of Africa, without sacrificing the realistic elements of his narrative. No matter how
impossible the story's events become, Haggard presents them in such vivid, realistic detail that they
are completely convincing.
Like all great fantasy writers, Haggard has the ability to create marvellous and thoroughly
believable imaginary worlds.
Haggard, who had been a member of the British Foreign Service, bases his fictional
descriptions on his own firsthand observations of Africa and its peoples. His extensive records of
African customs, character studies, animal life, and geography enable him to write detailed, credible
descriptions. The journey into Africa's interior is vividly rendered by accounts of animal life (such
as the grisly battle to the death between a lion and a crocodile) and of the hardships and disease they
encounter as they approach the land of Kor. Eventually they are captured by the members of a tribe
known as the Amahagger, who take them to their queen.
The savages refer to their queen as "SheWho-Must-Be-Obeyed." No such tribe as the
Amahagger has ever existed, but in describing their physical appearance, which Holly compares to
the East African Somali tribe, Haggard undoubtedly draws on the physical appearances of
tribesmen he himself had observed. He describes the Amahaggers' peculiar customs regarding male-
female relationships and their cannibalistic rituals with equal specificity. Holly's account of these
people are both credible and engrossing.
Having entered the Land of Kor, they meet the title character, Ayesha. Once within this
world, Holly, Vincey, and Job are increasingly subjected to terrifying and often supernatural
powers, ranging from the cannibalistic attacks of the cruel Amahagger tribesmen to the
incomprehensible, and apparently magical, powers of Ayesha herself. The grisly realism of the
story becomes more pronounced, as in this account of Horace's battle with two cannibals: "My arms
were round the two swarthy demons, and I hugged them till I heard their ribs crack and crunch up
beneath my grip. They twisted and writhed like snakes, and clawed and battered at me with their
fists, but I held on." Having survived ordeals like this, Horace and Leo must face even greater
dangers in their confrontation with She.
She rules her subjects by sheer terror.
Her labyrinthine world is permeated by violence and death, undoubtedly originating in her
murder of her beloved Kallikrates many centuries before. The lost subterranean city of Kor is a
bewildering network of caverns which are filled with skeletons, embalming chambers, and
mummified corpses. The atmosphere of this underground realm is both claustrophobic and
disorienting. It strongly suggests that the characters are imprisoned in an irrational and primitive
world where the laws of nature and human reasoning do not apply.
The source of Ayesha's apparent immortality is to be found in a treacherous cave at the
centre of the Earth, and as the story's conclusion suggests, She herself may not fully comprehend
the powers which she claims to control.
With its frightening darkness, violent winds, and treacherous cliffs, the subterranean world
of Kor resembles a nightmare in which dreamers have little control over their own destinies. The
supernatural forces are simply too strong for them.
Some readers may object to Haggard's depiction of Africans in She. With two notable
exceptions, Billali and Ustane, members of the Amahagger tribe are evil and cruel. Thus they are
stereotypically presented as "dark" and "swarthy" villains in a story where "goodness" seems
heavily associated with the white heroes. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the genre in which
Haggard was working and the story's setting demanded such convention. Furthermore, it should be
emphasized that Haggard's personal experience with actual Africans and their country had given
him a deep and abiding respect for their humanity and their cultures. Horace Holly's respect for the
Amahagger marriage customs reflects Haggard's own conviction that people of all races were part
of a common humanity. Having lived in an imperialistic society, Haggard was remarkably free of
the ethnocentrism characteristic of his contemporaries. Later in life he actively campaigned for the
preservation of the Zulu culture which was being destroyed by colonialism and tribal wars.
Interestingly, the treatment of women in She also offers some interesting departures from the
norm for this type of fiction. Typically, the kind of story Haggard was writing was a "boy's book"
about a "man's world," in which women were peripheral. However, a major cause of this work's
enduring popularity is Haggard's characterization of a powerful—indeed almost omnipotent—
woman as the story's main character.
Victorian society typically described women as mothers and homemakers, and very few
literary works depicted women with any sort of power at all.
Ayesha must have mystified and even shocked Victorian readers precisely because of her
dominant character. Myth
Even the success of King Solomon's Mines did not prepare the English reading public for the
imaginative tour de force of She. In terms of broader literary traditions, Haggard's story draws on
ancient mythic themes, the most obvious of which is the search for spiritual knowledge through a
quest. In fact, the Pillar of Flame, which the heroes discover deep in the caves of Kor, embodies
"The Spirit of Life" itself. Either literally or symbolically, some type of divine knowledge is often
the goal of quests undertaken by heroes of myths.
Unlike many of Haggard's other adventure stories, She has a central romantic theme in
Ayesha's obsessive love for Kallikrates and Leo. Typically, though, in Haggard's day the term
"romance" referred to a story's mysterious and exotic settings, and to the fantastic struggles and
obstacles that the hero had to overcome. Characters in a romance usually have powers which exceed
those of normal human beings but fall short of the powers of the gods, and this is precisely the
nature of the character of Ayesha. In fact, given the magnitude of the obstacles they must overcome
to escape destruction, all of the characters in She are larger than life.
Literary Devices: the Editor
Haggard's novel is also a good example of a "frame story," a work of fiction in which a narrator, in
this case a man we know only as "The Editor," presents the story to the reader. In the
"Introduction," this editor tells us that he is simply presenting Horace Holly's account of "one of the
most wonderful and mysterious experiences ever undergone by mortal men," just as Holly himself
recorded it. Although the editor is only present for a few pages to introduce the story, his preface
prepares the reader for Horace Holly's fantastic account. The editor anticipates the reader's
scepticism by saying that when he first read Holly's incredible narrative, he was unable to believe
that it was literally true.
Instead, he thought it was "some giant allegory of which I could not catch the meaning" or
that it was "a bold attempt to portray the possible results of practical immortality. "Finally,
however, he has decided that, "To me the story seems to bear the stamp of truth upon its face."
Thus, the editor's response to this incredible tale becomes a prediction of the effect Haggard
wants his tale to have on the other readers of Holly's account: the belief—even if only while
reading—that these fantastic events are true. Language
Horace Holly's language is appropriate to his character. As a Cambridge scholar. Holly's
language is somewhat more polished than that of Allan Quatermain, the rugged adventurer who
narrated King Solomon's Mines. However, even during his philosophical meditations, Holly's
diction and vocabulary remain free of obscure terminology. His style is highly conversational,
providing both vivid details of his adventures and insights into their significance. Horace's
meditations upon the transitoriness of human life, the power and beauty of nature, or the meaning of
human relationships are often poetic, but they seem quite natural and are emotionally compelling.
Haggard's style is equally effective in less philosophical passages. Indeed, one of his greatest
strengths as a writer is his directness, particularly in passages such as this horrifying description of
Ayesha's death: "She raised herself upon her bony hands, and blindly gazed around her, swaying
her head slowly from side to side as a tortoise does. She could not see, for her whitish eyes were
covered with a horny film." Such graphic images are characteristic of Haggard's descriptions of
violence and death. Charcters
Since She first appeared, critics and readers have analyzed Haggard's tale to discover its
deeper meanings. Some critics have argued that the characters are allegorical figures who stand for
certain moral values or psychological attitudes. Leo Vincey, Ustane (the native girl who loves him),
and Job are common literary stock characters. Leo is the handsome and noble, but not particularly
intelligent, young hero. Ustane is the beautiful, self-sacrificing maiden, in love with the hero.
However, as her defiance of Ayesha shows, Ustane becomes a far stronger character than many
female characters in adventure stories. Job, as his name implies, is the long-suffering servant, who
is devoted, honest, and humble. Like his Biblical namesake, he patiently endures the numerous
trials of the expedition. As in most such adventure stories, these characters embody certain virtues.
However, because they are all relatively one-dimensional, they are far less interesting than
the story's main characters, Horace Holly and Ayesha.
Flat and Round Characters
E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
“Flat characters are constructed around a single idea or quality […] One great advantage of
flat characters is that they are easily recognised whenever they come in [and] they are easily
remembered by the reader”
A "flat" character, according to Forster, can be summed up in a single sentence and acts as a
function of only a few fixed character traits.
"Round" characters are capable of surprise, contradiction, and change; they are
representations of human beings in all of their complexity.
Flat and round characters can coexist in the same novel.
The characters in adventure stories tend to be uncomplicated, largely because the author's
emphasis is usually on action. However, by characterizing Horace Holly as a philosophical man
deeply concerned with the meaning of life, Haggard is able to introduce a number of meaningful
themes without impeding the action. Holly's interest in human motivations and moral questions, and
his ability to relate the story's events to some larger religious or philosophical framework give an
additional dimension to the action.
Part of the reader's immediate sympathy with Horace Holly stems from Haggard's characterization
of him as a man of noble character whose inner life has been one of loneliness and suffering. At the
beginning of the story, readers learn that much of Holly's unhappiness derives from his physical
When the native priest, Billali, nicknames him "Baboon", he apparently does so with good
reason. Holly's descriptions of himself border on the grotesque, and he has come to believe that he
"was set apart by Nature to live alone, and draw comfort from her breast, and hers only. Women
hated the sight of me." Although Holly has often been rejected and ridiculed by women and men
alike, he elicits sympathy by accepting his ugliness without letting bitterness or resentment corrupt
Nor is this an easy task. Haggard emphasizes Holly's physical ugliness by contrasting it with the
almost superhuman beauty of his ward, Leo Vincey, who "looks like a statue of Apollo come to
life." Leo is so handsome that women fall in love with him on sight, and when the two walk down
the street observers are shocked by the contrast in the two men's appearances. Ironically, this
remarkable contrast is heightened by the deep devotion the two men have to one another. Although
keenly aware—and even envious—of Leo's superior beauty, Holly always acts in Leo's best
Horace Holly's extreme physical unattractiveness heightens the nobility of his character. By
establishing Holly's character as one of great honesty and integrity, Haggard provides an ideal
narrator for these improbable adventures.
Readers trust Horace to record events accurately and to tell the truth, without letting his
imagination take over. In fact Holly seems to regard the imagination as a disease which prevents
man from discovering truth. Therefore, when his rational view of the world is contradicted by the
fantastic events of the story, our faith in him as an honest and credible narrator makes the
improbable events he recounts all the more startling.
Although he is physically ugly, Holly has been blessed with high intelligence and a talent for
intellectual and philosophical inquiry. Ironically, although Ayesha madly loves Leo, she is much
closer intellectually to Horace, who is the only character in the story with whom she is able to
converse about philosophical and historical questions.
Nevertheless, although she realizes Horace's worth, her obsession with Leo does not
diminish. Ayesha remains convinced that he is her lover, Kallikrates, whom she had killed in a fit of
jealousy two thousand years before.
Themes: Society and Custom
Although the novel bristles with the usual themes of adventure stories— suspenseful unravelling of
mystery, heroic struggles against the forces of nature, overcoming adversaries through
resourcefulness and bravery—Horace's narration provides a reflective intellectual quality which
such fiction usually lacks. For instance, Holly muses on the strange "marriage" customs of the
Amahagger with something of a sociologist's interest, and expresses an open-mindedness toward
the native society.
After describing the Amahagger women's custom of frequently changing husbands, Horace
comments, "It is very curious to observe how the customs of mankind on this matter [marriage]
vary in different countries, making morality an affair of latitude, and what is right and proper in one
place wrong and improper in another." Horace believes that there is nothing immoral about this
custom, and his tolerance seems to affirm his view that all humans share certain fundamental
values. Themes: Good and Evil
Holly's philosophical discussions with Ayesha develop one the novel's major themes: the
struggle between good and evil. However, Haggard's treatment of this theme is highly ambiguous,
largely because of his ambivalent characterization of Ayesha. On one hand she is supernaturally
beautiful, and her character is both noble and awe-inspiring.
She has also suffered considerably for murdering Kallikrates centuries before.
She claims to have awaited his return for the last two thousand years, "tormented by the memory of
a crime, tortured day and night with an unfulfilled desire—without companionship, without
comfort, without death." Thus her extreme longevity (she claims that no power on Earth can
provide complete immortality) has been a curse rather than a blessing. Although she did kill
Kallikrates, she did so in a fit of jealous rage, and her subsequent guilt and loneliness have been so
great that the reader feels sympathy for her.
+1 anno fa
Dispensa messa a disposizione dalla Dott.ssa Tania Zulli contenente appunti per il corso di Lingua, cultura e istituzioni dei paesi di lingua inglese. Al loro interno sono trattati i seguenti argomenti: definizione dei termini "colonialism", "imperialism", "postcolonialism", "hibridity", "nationalism", "commonwealth of nations", "orientalism"; rapporti fra colonialismo, cultura e letteratura; rapporti fra genere, sessualità e colonialismo; l'età vittoriana, società e letteratura; il romanzo d'avventura; novel & romance; la figura della donna e dell'eroe nei romanzi di Stevenson; i romanzi di Sir Henry Rider Haggard.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Lingua, cultura e istituzioni dei paesi di lingua inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Zulli Tania.
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