Tennyson's Poems

Metaphors of Man and Colony in Victorian Literature

The Victorian concept of masculinity is one caught up a series of interrelated metaphors relating to the empire and national identity. Throughout the Victorian corpus there are a number of texts that create a metaphorical relationship between femininity and the colonised. In Lord Alfred Tennyson’s ‘The Princess’, the poem represents the social conquest of marginal feminist politics through a metaphor of military conquest. Sexual and social domination therefore become metaphorically related to the colonial enterprise. Similarly, Froude’s report on colonial Trinidad serves to feminise the natives through depiction of their passivity and connection to the domestic sphere; the direction of the metaphorical relationship is reversed but the effect is similar – the representational practice of both categories become confused and the two become almost symbolically interchangeable. In contrast, the feminisation of the motherland serves an entirely different purpose. The mother country is depicted as a nurturing domestic space that needs to be protected and provided for by the colonising male. Epitomised by Queen Victoria, the image of mother England is an enabling and validating but ultimately passive force. This contrasts with the...

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