EMPIRE, IMPERIALISM, ART AND AESTHETICS: A POSTCOLONIAL READING OF GRACE’S AESTHETIC VIRGINITY IN THE OUTCRY
Assistant Professor, IUB, Bahawalpur, Pakistan
James applies his argument about women’s aesthetic and ethical freedom, echoing Kant and foreshadowing Said, to a financially embarrassed English aristocratic family in The Outcry. I argue that Lady Grace’s aesthetic regard for the paintings owned by her family reveals her kinship with the art objects as those around her reduce both her beauty and the paintings’ beauty to their capital value, given that her father, Lord Theign, looks to sell them to the highest bidders, Mr. Bender and Lord John, to pay off his debts. The conflict between Grace’s disinterest and autonomy and the interest and instrumentalism of the men coveting her and the paintings she loves intensifies when research assigns one of the paintings to the master Mantovano. Although Grace may be less vulnerable than Fleda, Tina, or Isabel, she remains to some degree a prisoner of aristocratic constraint and patriarchal restriction. Yet she escapes her presumed prison by affirming her sexual autonomy in the face of its monetization with the help of Hugh Crimble, who inspires her as no associate of Fleda, Tina, or Isabel inspires them, not even Ralph Touchett. Of course, Grace enjoys considerable aristocratic privilege as long as she accepts the constraints that pay for it, but she is willing to forgo them to give the Mantovano to the nation and give herself to a commoner who cannot treat her as an investment because their marriage will deprive her of any inheritance and grant her autonomy less precarious than Fleda’s or Tina’s.
Key Words: Emipre, Imperialism, Aesthetic/Art, Women/Virginity, Ethics