Palimpsests : Cultural Imaginaries and Charles Halcombe’s “Mystic Flowery Land”

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)32_Refereed conference paper (no ISBN/ISSN)

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2018

Conference

Title10th Annual Conference of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association : War and Peace
LocationUniversity of London
PlaceUnited Kingdom
CityLondon
Period3 - 7 July 2018

Abstract

Published in 1896 in London, TheMystic Flowerly Land: A Personal Narrative of a Visit to China was one ofthe three major works—the other two being novels—written by Charles Halcombe(b. c.1865) that were (largely) set in China. As a globe-trotter, writer,sailor, and one who had joined the staff of the North China Daily News andImperial Maritime Customs in China in the late nineteenth century, Halcombefrequently asserted his narrative authority through the use of a range ofanecdotes, archives and folklore that he presumably remembered and recordedduring his sojourn in China. Published at a time when the country was embroiledin series of internal turmoil and suffered from external defeats, The MysticFlowerly Land has often been seen as a work of travel writing and ahistoric record at the heyday of British imperialism and colonial expansion inthe nineteenth century.


Whilerecognizing the confluence between his work and the tradition of Britishcolonial travel narratives, in this paper I focus on exploring how the multiplecultural layers, voices and literary forms that Halcombe incorporates in TheMystic Flowerly Land reveal its fragmented and ambivalent nature. Fromappropriating the styles of Romantic lyric poetry and Victorian popular urbansketches and reportage, to including Chinese and English newspaper cuttings andimages of the Orient in the narrative, Halcombe textually recreates his ownversion of the mystic flowerly land to his intended readers. By invoking theconcept of the palimpsest in my exploration of the polyphonic nature ofHalcombe’s narrative, I intend to reveal its ‘palimpsestuous’ condition—’asimultaneous relation of intimacy and separation’ in Sarah Dillon’s terms. Asmy paper will demonstrate, the textual and visual entanglements within thenarrative ultimately reveal the ambivalent attitude of the writer and thevarious, and at times conflicted, cultural assumptions that underline theportrayal of China in the long nineteenth century.

Citation Format(s)

Palimpsests : Cultural Imaginaries and Charles Halcombe’s “Mystic Flowery Land”. / Lee, Klaudia.

2018. Paper presented at 10th Annual Conference of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association : War and Peace, London, United Kingdom.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)32_Refereed conference paper (no ISBN/ISSN)