Empire on which the Sun Sets: Europeans and non-Europeans in Robert Southey's Works on Latin America and the Caribbean
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Aparicio De Soto, Valentina Paz
This thesis examines the portrayal of the encounters between Europeans and non Europeans of the American continent in the works of Robert Southey. The thesis argues that Southey’s representations of European/non-European interaction problematise the role of Romantic British radicals in projects based on universalism. Drawing on the contributions of transatlantic, postcolonial, transcultural, and world system studies, this thesis traces the effect that emerging notions of race, culture, and nationality had on the radicals’ universalism. This work aims to use Southey as a case study, in order to illustrate that the overlap of radical universalism and imperialism was central to British Romantic ideas on non-Europeans. The thesis concludes that the conservative turn of the Romantics cannot be taken as a mere rejection of their previous political beliefs. Rather, it was a change that grew out organically from views on cultural and national difference that were already present in 1790s radical politics. Chapter 1 analyses Southey’s ‘Poems on the Slave Trade’ (1797), examining how these poems intend to provide a political role for the British radical, by establishing solidarity between British abolitionists and African enslaved workers. Chapter 2 outlines the combined transatlantic and ‘ancient’ Northern European roots of Southey’s ‘Songs of the American Indians’ (1799). This chapter argues that the songs reveal Southey’s ambivalent position towards indigenous-led resistance. The chapter also traces the portrayal of an underlying ‘future-oriented memory’ in Southey’s imagined indigenous American communities. This type of memory focuses on avenging the vanquished and is still distinctively radical. Chapter 3 describes Madoc (1805) as a turning point in Southey’s understanding of difference. In writing Madoc, Southey used the conceptual tools offered by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Southey applied some elements of Rousseau’s work to explore the idea of nationality in the colonial encounter, and concluded that nations could not co-exist but only be at war or dissolve in intermarriage. Chapter 4 examines Southey’s views on intermarriage in The History of Brazil (1810-1819), focusing on the passage about the quilombo of Palmares. Southey uses Palmares, a marginalised multiethnic community, to imagine the origin of new nations through intermarriage. For him, Palmares illustrates that the dissolution of race categories could be an advantageous and inevitable outcome of imperial society. Chapter 5 analyses A Tale of Paraguay (1825). It argues that, although the Tale tries to prove that the sufferings caused by colonialism were the consequence of an overall justifiable endeavour, it remains haunted by the fear that the loss of Guarani culture might not have been worth the Guarani conversion to Christianity.