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Archive for April 2nd, 2005

Imperial Impersonality

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Two passages. The first from Joyce’s Portrait, of course:

The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.

The second from T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom of 1926. He’s talking about the proper type to administer the British system of "indirect rule" in the colonies.

Class one, subtle and insinuating, caught the characteristics of the people about him, their speech, their conventions of thought, almost their manner. He directed men secretly, guiding them as he would. In such frictionless habit of influence his own nature lay hid, unnoticed.

I’m wondering tonight if a line could be run from the principle of indirect rule in the British colonies to free indirect narration in the period’s modernist fiction. That the fictional mode is a reflection of increasing sophistication on the part of governing bodies, managers. Suggestion rather than direct influence, anticipation rather than instruction. Both relying on a knowledge of the "speech… conventions of thought, almost the manner" of the represented. And both staked on the invisiblity of power, the author.

(Related: just saw Control Room tonight for the first time on DVD. Interesting to draw the above together with the US naive faith / cynical pretence of faith in the Iraqi citizenry’s endorsement of their "liberation.")

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April 2, 2005 at 1:40 am

Posted in literature