Tod’s use of Romanticism in his textual constructions of Rajasthan and Gujarat
in Knowledge, mediation and empire
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Tod’s use of a heroic Romantic register and of quotations from British Romantic writers like Byron and Scott in his published works is compared here with James Forbes’ and Bishop Reginald Heber’s recourse to literary quotations. Tod’s renderings of succession conflicts, of marriages and sati-sacrifices by Rajput princesses, and his reconstitutions of famous battles from Rajput bardic chronicles seem to be inspired by Romanticism’s idealisation of the heroic spirit and its nostalgia for a chivalrous past. David Arnold’s tripartite classification of Tod’s use of literary Romanticism with first a sentimental Romanticism (bleak ruins), then with a brooding, Orientalist Romanticism (cosmic elements and an epic register) and finally with a heroic, Byronic Romanticism (poetic meditations on the futility of life and on human love) is helpful in making sense of the various literary quotations that appear through Tod’s texts. These literary excursions in Tod’s writings seem to play a double role: an aesthetic role of making strange settings and events familiar through well-known literary favourites, deployed as cultural bridges; and then an ideological role of advocating a flexible, colonial regime, respectful of age-old Rajput customs and the Rajput sense of honour, while awakening in Britain, "sympathy for… the interesting people of Rajasthan" (Annals, II-vii).

Knowledge, mediation and empire

James Tod’s journeys among the Rajputs




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