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The Sinthomal Literary Aggressivity of the Subaltern: Rethinking Chander’s Brown Romantics – Longform Excerpt

By Haider Ali

Brown Romanticism, a term introduced by Manu Samriti Chander in his Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century, is a theoretical advance in the discourse of Romanticism that questions the place, influence, and aims of the Romantic writers in the British colonies, those who found themselves on the periphery of the Romantic movement. The purported advance, as we will see, does not hold up to scrutiny. In his introduction to Brown Romanticism, “World Literature and World Legislation,” Chander specifically theorises Brown Romanticism according to a Kantian logic of disagreement with the end of agreement; that is, the opposition between Romantics of the metropole and Romantics of the colony can be dialectically reconciled through a Kantian “coming to terms,” an actualisation of a plurality of taste in a world republic of letters (Chander 9). The theorisation laid out in “World Literature and World Legislation will be the focus of my argument, and perhaps the issues that I will take with this approach might be perceptible already—or perhaps not. In any case, a theoretical exposition—something of a detour—will be necessary to sufficiently ground my argument.

When thinking of the Brown Romantics, one cannot help being reminded of Antonio Gramsci, who, in his Prison Notebooks, introduces the notion of the subaltern, which is popularly deployed by postcolonial critics like Gayatri Spivak. Chander, too, is reminded of subalternity, even if he goes on to (erroneously) discount it. In his third notebook, Gramsci explains that 

For the subaltern classes, the unification [with the state] does not occur; their history is intertwined with the history of civil society; it is a disjointed segment of that history. One must study… their passive or active adherence to the dominant political formations; that is, their efforts to influence the programs of these formations with demands of their own. (91; italics mine)

The subaltern class represents a point of exclusive inclusion within civil society, in so far as it is a ‘disjointed segment’ of this broader social entity that has been denied ‘unification’ into said entity, vis-à-vis other classes. Despite their disjunction from society at large, however, the subaltern classes still issue ‘demands of their own’, in an effort to ‘influence the programs’ of the social formations around them. What are these demands, in the context of colonial writers, like the Brown Romantics? Better yet, what are the forms of these demands, and how might we locate them? To put it briefly, the Brown Romantics demand a sinthomal release of aggressivity through writing, with the aim of subverting colonising discursive formations. Let us develop this notion, beginning with aggressivity as such.

With subaltern classes, the question of aggressivity towards the ruling order arises naturally as a result of radical exclusion and the discontent it fosters. “In every society, in every collectivity, exists—must exist—a channel, an outlet through which the forces accumulated in the form of aggression can be released,” writes Frantz Fanon in his Black Skin, White Masks (112). Fanon’s model of collective aggressivity posits cultural productions as avenues through which a pent-up aggressivity may find release. In other words, art, be it consciously or unconsciously, is always possibly ‘a channel’ through which such release may flow. It is here clarifying to define aggressivity. For that matter, I turn to Jacques Lacan, who, in “Variations on the Standard Treatment,” writes:

The notion of aggressiveness corresponds, on the contrary, to the rending of the subject from himself, a rending whose primordial moment comes when the sight of the other’s image, apprehended by him as a unified whole, anticipates his sense that he lacks motor coordination, this image retroactively structuring this lack of motor coordination in images of fragmentation. (286)

Borne out of the drama of the mirror stage, aggressivity emerges following the imaginary capture of the subject by the specular other—more precisely from ‘the rending of the subject from himself’ that results from this specular identification with the ‘unified whole’ that is the image of the other. This relation, though in this instance explicated in the context of the imago of the mirror stage, is the point of entry into imaginary lack—‘images of fragmentation’—that can be applied more broadly to the colonial context, between the subject-as-subaltern and the specular other-as-hegemon.^1

Indeed, the question of aggressivity is broadened to a social level by Lacan in “Aggressiveness in Psychoanalysis,” wherein he posits five theses on aggressivity, the fifth being, “This notion of aggressiveness as one of the intentional coordinates of the human ego, especially as regards the category of space, allows us to conceive of its role in modern neurosis and in the malaise in civilisation” (98). Aggressivity, in Lacan’s understanding, is an aspect of the ego that plays a role in ‘modern neurosis’ and civilizational ‘malaise’. As the argument goes, aggressivity is an egoic adoption of this fundamental ‘malaise’ in a ‘coordinat[ing]’ manner (this ‘malaise’, for example, exists in the social, political, economic, and cultural lack imposed on the subaltern by the hegemon). An adoption, in this context, is followed by conversion that ‘coordinates’ the subject. My inclusion of the term conversion here stems from Lacan’s use of ‘neurosis’, which, based on his appropriation of Freud in The Psychoses, is a condition in which “the subject attempts to make the reality that he at one time elided re-emerge by lending it a particular meaning, a secret meaning, which we call symbolic” (45). In the process of repression [Verdrängung], that which was ‘elided’ in the unconscious is followed by a ‘symbolic’ return that is the symptom, in so far as the symptom is a signifier of that which is repressed [Verdrängte]. Put otherwise, the neurotic converts that which is repressed in the unconscious into a symptom in the symbolic. To quilt this to the question of colonialism, aggressivity, as the internalisation of civilizational ‘malaise’ associated with neurosis, leads to a conversion of said ‘malaise’ into, per Fanon, cultural productions. These cultural productions, qua materialisations of aggressivity, whether or not their content is explicitly aggressive, perform the discontent of the subject in question, with the latent—or not—aim of changing the status quo. Therefore (to unite psychoanalysis with subalternity), the subaltern poet’s creative output is the form of their demands, as Gramsci understands them—demands for change and for a realisation of their subjectivity.

I have sought to sketch out this model of subaltern literary aggressivity only to apply it as a critique of Chander’s “World Literature and World Legislation,” which, in its Kantian idealism, fails to account for matters of the psychic economy. Chander argues that “it is wrong to understand the ambivalence that these writers [the Brown Romantics] demonstrate in laying claim to European literary lineage within a psychological problematic,” specifically citing Fanon and Bloom as figures who offer such ‘problematic[s]’ (3). The logic for this claim, that the psychic economy is the ‘wrong’ framework for understanding the Brown Romantics, is unclear and underdeveloped; it seems, at best, that Chander is giving priority to the socio-cultural field of colonialism over the psychical one. Yet questions of psychic economy are not at all separate from this field; rather, the psychic is deeply integrated in the socio-cultural, as the arguments of Fanon and Lacan I invoke above suggest. I will consequently posit that Chander’s so-called Brown Romantics—a term that I most hesitatingly deploy, only for the sake of clarity—can very well be read through a psychoanalytic model, one coupled with Gramscianism, and, indeed, should be thus read. It is through a wilful rejection of the ‘psychological problematic’ that Chander, wittingly or unwittingly, neutralises—co-opts in terms favourable to colonialism—the radical aggressivity locatable in the Brown Romantics. He performs what I will call, drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, a stifling oedipalisation that denies these subaltern writers their self-realisation in aggressivity. By oedipalisation, I certainly intend to invoke the structure of social normalisation established by Freud wherein the son desires to, but is unable to, kill the father with whom he competes, but I align here more so the Deleuzoguattarian idea of binding the subject to a position of subordination vis-à-vis a master signifier in which the choice is twofold: accept the despot or be relegated to an extra-symbolic zone of indeterminacy. Aggression may be located in this structure as well; however, here, aggression is critically sublated into identification with the father—which reproduces the structure as a whole, given that the desired end is not transcending the father but rather becoming the father. In other words, we find in the oedipal scheme an eventual neutralisation of aggression in favour of identification—which is precisely what Chander’s approach effects as well. Assuredly, this is not where we ought to lead the Brown Romantics.

Instead, I see the Brown Romantics as figures who, because they refuse the strictures of their metropolitan noms-du-père and therein face a threat to their subjective existences as such, must find an evanescent realisation of their subjectivity in aggressivity-steeped writing that aims beyond a mere oedipal drama of becoming-father, to which Chander relegates them. Writing, in so far as it serves the Brown Romantics as an outlet for this aggressivity, becomes the crutch upon which their subjective integrity is preserved, in the face of colonial eviscerations of the same. It is a sinthome, a means of transcending an oedipal subordination, that allows for these figures to move past the White Romantics—colonial noms-du-père—and their laws of taste.^2 This sinthome allows them, from a position of subalternity, to make demands for change, distinct from the father-son engagement found in a standard oedipal drama by virtue of their ultimate aim being one of deconstructing the hegemonic structure—not assuming mastery thereof via repression of aggression. Again, the sinthome situates the subject beyond the oedipal drama, according to an inward turn that aligns with an emancipatory jouissance. Yet, to deny this sinthome and the overtly aggressive libidinal charges associated with it is to shackle, as Chander does, these subaltern writers—the so-called Brown Romantics—to White Romantic sensibilities. In my rethinking of Chander’s theorisations on the Brown Romantics, I will offer an exegesis and deconstruction of Chander’s own argument, then work through the question of the Brown Romantics’ sinthome (which I will study through Henry Derozio—one of the figures Chander often cites as a Brown Romantic—and his The Fakeer of Jungheera), before offering a path forward for Brown Romanticism, according to the psychoanalytic-Gramscian model of the subaltern’s sinthomal aggressivity proffered thus far.

I wish to first evaluate and challenge Chander’s analysis of Derozio’s “Heaven” vis-à-vis Byron’s The Bride of Abydos in “World Literature and World Legislation,” because I find this contrast to be exemplary of the sinthomal aggressivity with which I have been grappling and without which, I contend, Derozio’s poem is truly a mere imitation of Byron’s. We are told, correctly, that “Derozio’s ‘Imitation’ opens by mimicking the dactylic tetrameter, diction, and syntax of the English original [The Bride of Abydos]” (Chander 10).^3 The formal imitation is significant: Derozio is asking to be juxtaposed with the English original. I must explicate that our approach here towards comparison will differ from Chander’s oedipalising approach: instead of treating the White Romantic as the be-all, end-all of the Brown Romantic, we are instead here seeing the latter enter a relation of aggressive contention with the former (which Chander, unsurprisingly, dismisses) with the aim of proper separation. Chander makes some well-analysed remarks at this point, eclipsed though they are by his disappointingly oedipal conclusions, which enchain the Brown Romantic to subalternity:

Where Byron’s poem refers to the Ottoman Empire, Derozio refers to the Christian Heaven, which he later names ‘love’s hallowed empire’. The epithet suggests a revision of the imperialism undergirding Byron’s Orientalism. But even though one cannot fail to detect that Derozio has built his poem in contention with Byron’s, the poem cannot be dismissed as a simple act of resistance. Indeed, it seems to me, Derozio has entered into a contentious relationship with his famous predecessor in order to sustain the possibility of ‘coming to terms’ with Byron’s Orientalism… Derozio has entered into an agreement to disagree, implicitly endorsing a heterogeneous cultural field as allowing for a more even distribution of literary authority than a field that aimed at unifying participants. His critique of Orientalism has a cosmopolitical end. (10; italics mine)

Defanging the Brown Romantic, after recognising their fangs no less, Chander somehow misses the revolutionary potential that liberates Derozio in his imitation of Byron—the sinthome—and returns to a neutralising Kantian conclusion that ‘Derozio has entered into an agreement to disagree’. Where Derozio, as Chander himself notes, is occupied with an overtly subversive de-orientalising of Byron’s metropolitan discourse, Chander decides to effectively say: ‘Derozio is in contention with Byron, but he is not really subverting Byron’s orientalism—which he is rather fine with—since all he really wants is show is that he can do what Byron does, with the same degree of skill, just in India rather than England’. Asserting that Derozio’s ‘critique of Orientalism has a cosmopolitical end’ defeats the aggressivity located within this critique and its intrinsic demand for an acknowledgement of the subaltern’s subjectivity. It wrenches from Derozio all his work in excavating India from the metropole’s fetishistic, phantasmal projections.

If we properly evaluate these same passages, Derozio’s reworking of Byron’s Orientalism demonstrates a desire to take back what has been overwritten by the metropole. India, and the East more broadly, is not some underdeveloped, barbarically beautiful “land of the Sun,” as Byron puts it, but instead, per Derozio, a place where “his [the sun’s] light would be darkened by glory divine” (The Bride of Abydos 16; “Heaven” 5-6; both quoted from Chander 10). Derozio re-establishes the subaltern classes’ claim to their land—he is not simply vying for the same status as Byron, while respecting Byron’s differences like an obedient son. Instead, he proclaims the ‘glory divine’ that watches over the East, rather than the West, in a manner that challenges and subverts orientalising discourses, through a decentring of divine blessing towards the East from the West. Chander’s warning against reducing Derozio’s poem to a ‘simple act of resistance’ is therefore misleading and incorrect: resistance is far from simple (and clearly more complex than Chander’s pacifying neo-Kantian readings, which ignore all the nuances of literary resistance). Derozio—and this applies to the Brown Romantics more broadly—finds in writing a means of externalising his discontent as a subaltern figure; he turns to writing, but specifically writing qua jouissance that subverts the dominant literary order of the White Romantic. Derozio may consequently latch onto his writing as a sinthome that safeguards him from the double bind of exclusive inclusion typical of the subaltern. It is, furthermore, a positive assertion of his identity—he becomes a subject in full, from a subject-in-waiting—which is otherwise lost to a void of negativity constructed by the British metropole’s hegemony over India. This negativity itself is no different from the void of neutrality into which Chander places Derozio, in so far as neutrality, in Chander’s work, is—even if he fails to notice as much—based on an oedipal lack.

In The Fakeer of Jungheera, Derozio offers an even more explicit subversion of colonial discourses, especially those surrounding the Hindu sati, reinforcing our reading of aggressive writing as the Brown Romantic’s sinthome. In one of his earlier references to the sati, Derozio’s speaker calls out the European reader: “Ye who in fancy’s vision view the fires / Where the calm widow gloriously expires” (FJ 1.10.17-18).^4 The second-person here—this ‘Ye’ who observes the sati with ‘fancy’s vision’—is brought into direct confrontation with the content of the poem. As Derozio’s notes to these two lines demonstrate, this second-person is the European, whose immersion in a separate symbolic field leads to a dangerous ignorance of sati and its perils:

The whole of this passage has reference to a mistaken opinion, somewhat general in Europe, namely, that the Hindu Widow’s burning herself with the corpse of her husband, is an act of unparalleled magnanimity and devotion. To break those illusions which are pleasing to the mind, seems to be a task which no one is thanked for performing; nevertheless, he who does so, serves the cause of Truth. The fact is, that so far from any display of enthusiastic affection, a Suttee is a spectacle of misery. (123-24)

The intervention of Derozio-as-author in this key moment—whereby the European reader is directly targeted—confirms his effort to recast the sati against orientalising discourses. Far from a ‘display of enthusiastic affection’, Derozio urges, the ‘Suttee is a spectacle of misery’. This is the ‘Truth’, hidden as it otherwise is behind ‘those illusions’ of Orientalism. Derozio charges, then, those two lines that I quoted earlier with a strong notion of duty: a duty to clarify the ‘Truth’ against ‘mistaken opinion’. Such a move also showcases the aggressivity embedded in Derozio’s poem: constructed with the aim of subverting Europeanist readings of a Hindu tradition and reclaiming it, thereby, as it is—with all its real problems—for India, Derozio issues a demand from his subalternity to the metropole. This demand is a demand for change, as described earlier, that stems from a malaise generated through the hegemonic dynamics behind British colonialism.

With this explicit invocation of the European reader, Derozio proceeds with his narrative such that it arrests the jouissance of this reader by denying the sati—and the perverse pleasure that orientalising readings derive from it—and instead seeking recourse in the Sufi love tradition.^5 The choices in terms of content ensure the subjectivity of Derozio as a subaltern, despite his divergence from the metropolitan laws of taste (and, unlike Chander, I will not suggest that there is some hope on Derozio’s part for reconciliation with the White Romantic). In Derozio’s first canticle, the Fakeer interrupts Nuleeni’s sati:

Disorder reigns:—the yell, the shout,

The dying gasp, the groan, the rout,

Alas! have marred the solemn scene

Where late mysterious rites had been. (1.22.23-26)

What was being steadily romanticised and glorified in a sombre, melancholic voice—an ever-rising sense of tension, a continuous and eroticised consumption of misery for jouissance—is upturned in this scene. The Fakeer’s entry forces the colonial spectator to turn their enjoyment in Nuleeni’s misery towards something far less pleasing: the ‘Disorder’. The spectator must acknowledge, rather than Nuleeni’s tragic beauty, the ‘yell’, ‘shout’, ‘gasp’, ‘groan’, and ‘rout’ that ‘mar’ the once ‘solemn scene’. No longer is this misery, as Derozio puts it in his notes, a consumable spectacle. Chaos is all that remains, negating the European reader’s sadistic jouissance in Nuleeni’s ritual death: there is no more jouis-sens, as the narrative stage shifts elsewhere, as our connection with the anticipated meaning of the ‘mysterious rites’, of the sati, is lost.^6

Nuleeni’s sati, indeed, never arrives, which serves as Derozio’s ultimate rejection of the metropolitan interest in sati (and its orientalising tendencies around the practice, generally): she dies, upon the Fakeer’s body—in what might mirror a sati, but is doubtlessly not a sati (the logic of mirroring to criticise and thence decolonise, of course, extends to much of Derozio’s project—on her own terms. We are given Nuleeni’s reaction to the Fakeer’s death—“Nuleeni’s settled glance is fixed upon / That dying form, as if for him alone / Her soft eye’s lamp were lit”—but nothing else until she too is dead (2.23.97-99). The next scene offered is that of Nuleeni’s corpse, atop the Fakeer’s:

And fondly ivying round it were the arms

Of a fair woman, whose all powerful charms

Even death had failed to conquer—her lips seemed

Still parted by sweet breath, as if she dreamed

Of him in her embrace: but they who thought

That life was tenanting her breast, and sought

Some answer from her heart to hush the doubt,

Found that its eloquence had all burned out. (2.24.21-28)

The lacuna in the text, wherein Nuleeni dies, purposefully withholds her misery, dignifying her death by concealing it from the spectacle-thirsty European reader, to recall Derozio’s active considerations in his notes. This lacuna marks a point at which the reader loses their mastery over Derozio’s poem: our lack of knowledge around Nuleeni’s death elevates that death into something constitutive of our desire as readers, something that we wish to unearth from Derozio, but ultimately cannot; of course, this follows the logic of the Lacanian objet a, the object-cause of desire.^7 In this passage that I have brought forth, we can say that the speaker simulates the European reader’s voyeurism of the colonial subaltern, trying to mine, like this reader, ‘Some answer… to hush the doubt’ they now hold. The diction choices in this passage, such as ‘seemed’, ‘as if’, and ‘thought’, support this incertitude, this speculation on the part of speaker as such and qua embodiment of European reader: all these signifiers construct the final scene through a definite perspective that is engaged in this ‘seem[ing], these ‘as if’ statements, such ‘thought’ with the implicit aim of ‘hush[ing] the doubt’ that lingers around Nuleeni’s death (and this perspective can be tied to the European reader, who Derozio explicitly charges with a desire for mastery over the subaltern). In this sense, the lacuna introduced by Derozio apotheosises Nuleeni and the Fakeer, who remain—and perhaps Derozio is extending this claim to the subaltern class at large—beyond the grasp of the reader, especially the European reader. It is a point at which the poem absolutely resists European attempts to co-opt it for colonial purposes, for colonial discourses, for colonial enjoyment (perhaps jouissance is already out of the question)—and thereby becomes the point at which Derozio’s subalternity is elevated to subjectivity proper. Just as the ‘eloquence’ of Nuleeni is ‘all burned out’, so is the subaltern radically transported beyond the colonial master, in so far as writing (writing with a vengeance towards the dominant literary order) permits this escape, this positive, sinthomal assertion of the subject as such. It is not a matter of Derozio trying to equalise himself peacefully with the colonial nom-du-père, but one of him trying to free himself from the latter’s clutches in a subversive externalisation of his built-up aggressivity through writing: the sinthome, which allows this subaltern writer to re-invent himself, to become a synth-homme that has the potential to—rather than find some equality with the Byrons and the Southeys of his time—escape a colonial relation to the West.^8

As an aside, there is no need to treat this final scene as a yielding to European expectations through the staging of a tragic romance, even if it is not the expected sati—that would be egregiously ignorant of Derozio’s other key influences, such as Sufi mysticism. Joseph Lumbard contributes to our understanding of Sufism and love, as found in the Indian subcontinent: “Many of the themes associated with the Sufi love tradition find direct reflections in the secular literary traditions of the Muslim world, particularly ʿudhrī ghazal poetry, where the beloved becomes the personification of the ideal and the lover is condemned to die in love” (172). Just because Nuleeni’s death resembles a motif from the European tradition does not mean it must be derived from this tradition: we can just as easily posit a Sufi influence on this stylistic choice in Derozio’s work. For his love, the Fakeer ‘is condemned to die’, while, as the object of the Fakeer’s love, Nuleeni is consistently personified into an ‘ideal’ woman. The possibility of Sufi inspiration holds, just as—if not more—strongly as that of a European influence. Bluntly, Derozio is not obeying a European tradition, following those like Southey, but doing something new. 

Chander, to return to his “World Literature and World Legislation,” might still have some rebuttal against the plausibility of taking up the Brown Romantics as figures of resistance. Having mentioned Spivak’s charge of bigotry against figures like Shelley, Chander emphasises that

The same charge of bigotry can be leveled at the Brown Romantics: Derozio’s work features anti-Islamic sentiment, Martin figures all non-Christians as heathens in need of saving, and Lawson was a rabid white supremacist, thoroughly committed to the eradication of Asians in particular. These incidents of religious and racial intolerance warn us not to idealize Brown Romantics as figures of resistance to the oppression of white Western imperialism, even as we locate within their appeals for citizenship the desire for a more hospitable republic of letters. (11)

Notwithstanding Chander’s usual oedipalised neutralisation of the Brown Romantics—with their revolutionary potentials being reduced to ‘the desire for a more hospitable republic of letters’—this passage simply lacks sense: even if the Brown Romantics exhibit ‘religious and racial intolerance’, does that completely discredit their work towards asserting the subaltern beyond the double bind of British imperialism? Perhaps I am overstating Chander’s claim here, and he is merely warning us ‘not to idealize’ these figures as ‘figures of resistance’. (Who said that we should? When did we ever say to applaud them beyond the cause of resisting colonial discourses?) But in the broader development of Chander’s essay, it does not seem that he is merely warning against an ‘idealiz[ation]’, but against viewing the Brown Romantics as ‘figures of resistance’, which is an indefensible perspective. Derozio’s craft in The Fakeer of Jungheera, or even “Heaven,” demonstrates that he is a figure of resistance against the imperial discourse of White Romanticism, whether or not he is perfectly progressive beyond that project.

Chander, to end his introductory chapter, offers us a summary definition of his aims, which I will use to begin a summary of my own arguments:

I want to define as quintessentially Romantic a dialectic between dissent and agreement in which the conflict over taste proceeds in the name of peaceable reconciliation. If world literatures are, in Casanova’s phrase, ‘combative literatures’, Romantic world literature, I want to show, is distinguished by the fact that its struggles are governed by Kant’s ‘hope of coming to terms’. (11)

This ‘dialectic between dissent and agreement’ that Chander claims finds its end in ‘peaceable reconciliation’ is truly an idealistic perspective, ignorant of the harsher realities of colonialism and imperialism. The subaltern classes cannot be expected to behave in a ‘peaceable’ manner, subjugated as they are under colonial hegemony. To advocate for peace between the subaltern and the hegemon is to legitimise the latter’s oppression of the former; that is, it is to reproduce the conditions of the colonial apparatus under a new banner that fundamentally fails to liberate the subaltern subject as such. In as much as these subalterns are subjugated, additionally, they necessarily develop an aggressivity, which must find some channel of release, like writing. This writing becomes sinthomal: the point of self-realisation of the subaltern as a full subject, beyond the spectre of colonialism, even if it is evanescent, only for a moment. In this sinthomal writing, the aim is not to find ‘peaceable reconciliation’, as it were, but to find the self beyond the colonial master, the nom-du-père. To have a ‘coming to terms’ is thus illogical and would, moreover, absolve the White Romantic of any of their sins by subjugating to them what would otherwise be a sinthomal realisation of the subaltern.^9

This paper does not contain a comprehensive critique of Chander’s Brown Romanticism as it is expressed in “World Literature and World Legislation”; I have remained focused only on this first chapter of a larger argument while relying solely on Derozio as a point of incision into the claims with which I take issue. Yet my aim is more to agitate a critical literary perspective that I find lacking in many regards, namely a dismissal of the psychic economy and its relation to subalternity. My argument is a theoretical response to the foundational assertions of “World Literature and World Legislation,” which taint all of Chander’s work in Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century (including his chapter on Derozio and The Fakeer of Jungheera). That being said, a new classification for the Brown Romantics could potentially be found, one that frees them from the yoke of the despotic signifier, Romanticism, as it is forced upon them by Chander; alternatively, we can begin anew with a theory of Brown Romanticism, one that does not bifurcate the existence of these writers in such a way that they can either peacefully aspire to be like their colonial masters, or fail to be anything at all. Regardless, what cannot be ignored are the sinthomal politics of desire and aggressivity which are so vital to these writers’ subalternity: this model of relationality, unlike Chander’s, which only ever treats the Brown Romantic as someone vying for the status of the White Romantic, envisions a complete liberation of the Brown Romantic from their relation to the White Romantic. This model, then, must found a new Brown Romanticism (or a new term altogether) lest we consign the movement to the annals of history as one inescapably marked by a colonial oedipalisation—wherein those poor, little, dutiful, peaceful colonial children tried and tried to be like their fathers—and end the discussion with only this and nothing more. I shall leave it there.

  1. The terms ‘real’, ‘imaginary’, and ‘symbolic’ will only be deployed in a Lacanian sense in this paper.
  2. I am taking the sinthome from a later seminar of Lacan’s, The Sinthome. I will elaborate on this concept in §II.
  3. Chander is working with the first four lines of The Bride of Abydos and “Heaven.”
  4. I have used FJ as a short form of Derozio’s The Fakeer of Jungheera. I am observing a canto-stanza-line number format for the body of the poem itself. For Derozio’s notes, I will use the page number(s) from the 1828 edition.
  5. See Lacan’s The Other Side of Psychoanalysis: “I have already said enough to you for you to know that jouissance is the jar of the Danaides, and that once you have started, you never know where it will end. It begins with a tickle and ends in a blaze of petrol. That’s always what jouissance is” (72).
  6. Jouis-sens is one of Lacan’s puns from The Sinthome: it suggests a jouissance (a waxing enjoyment) in meaning.
  7. See Lacan’s The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: “In so far as the gaze, qua objet a, may come to symbolize this central lack expressed in the phenomenon of castration, and in so far as it is an objet a reduced, of its nature, to a punctiform, evanescent function, it leaves the subject in ignorance as to what there is beyond the appearance, an ignorance so characteristic of all progress in thought that occurs in the way constituted by philosophical research” (77).
  8. There is much to be said as well about the Brown Romantic as the sinthome of the White Romantic, the positive assurance of the latter’s being coming from the former’s subalternity—and allowing for the preservation of the latter’s subjectivity thereby. However, this is not my focus in this essay, so I shall leave the matter with this note.
  9. To ensure clarity, a ‘coming to terms’ in Chander’s framework maintains a relation (a colonial one, here), while the sinthome ultimately holds the possibility of liberation from such relations for the Brown Romantic.

Works Cited

New International Version. Biblica, Accessed 5 November 2023.

Chander, Manu Samriti. “World Literature and World Legislation.” Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century. Bucknell University Press, 2017, pp. 1-17

Coulthard, Glen Sean. Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. In Indigenous Americas, edited by Robert Warrior. University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Penguin Group, 2009.

Derozio, Henry L. V. The Fakeer of Jungheera, A Metrical Tale, and Other Poems. Samuel Smith and Co. Hurkaru Library, 1828.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks, translated by Richard Philcox. Grove Press, 2008.

Gramsci, Antonio. “§90 History of the subaltern classes.” Prison Notebooks, vol. II, translated by Joseph A. Buttigieg. Columbia University Press, 2011, pp. 91-92.

Harari, Roberto. How James Joyce Made His Name: A Reading of the Final Lacan, translated by Luke Thurston. Other Press LLC, 2002.

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