British Columbia

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Gender, Environment, and Imperialism in William Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion

This essay examines Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793) in light of William Blake's poetic critique of contemporary imperialism. Its argument turns on the contention that Blake's protagonist, Oothoon, represents in Visions both an enslaved woman and the expropriated natural landscapes of the New World. Thus, Oothoon's brutal rape at the hands of the slave-master Bromion is understood to signify a simultaneous figural rape of her environmental aspect. Analyzing the major critical implications of this double-edged violence, the essay investigates Vision's implicit thesis (based in part on Blake's poetic response to John Gabriel Stedman's contemporary writings) that the colonization of indigenous peoples and the exploitation of indigenous homelands were ideologically interrelated aspects of eighteenth-century imperialism. By drawing upon insights garnered from such fields of inquiry as ecofeminism, postcolonial theory, and the history of science, the essay also considers the theoretical and practical assumptions informing Oothoon's activist response to her doubly-colonized condition.
November 2001

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