Mimicry and Linguistic Hybridity
This chapter focuses on the evolving discomfort over the implications of cultural translation over the course of the nineteenth century. It traces how colonial translations moved from an aesthetic cosmopolitanism to focus on the increasingly on the effects of cultural pollution and mimicry, or “bad translation.” Considering a number of both early and late nineteenth-century texts—The Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah, The Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, The Jungle Books, Baboo Hurry Bungsho Jabberjee, B.A.—the chapter identifies the figure of the “baboo,” or poorly westernized native, as a representative of the unease over the fate of Britishness in the colonies. Westernized natives are often characterized as cowardly and buffoonish, but they are also deeply unsettling, and their linguistic hybridity presents a challenge to notions of British supremacy. The chapter considers cultural mixing both literally, in the form of travel literature, and linguistically, in a brief concluding look at colonial lexicons.
Keywords: Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Raja, The Jungle Books, Baboo Hurry Bungsho Jabberjee, B.A, satire, travel literature, The Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, Hobson-Jobson
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