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The ‘beautiful white devil’: a colonial heroine in Borneo waters

Doran, Christine (2003). The ‘beautiful white devil’: a colonial heroine in Borneo waters. RIMA: review of Indonesian and Malaysian affairs,37(2):67-82.

Document type: Journal Article
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Title The ‘beautiful white devil’: a colonial heroine in Borneo waters
Author Doran, Christine
Journal Name RIMA: review of Indonesian and Malaysian affairs
Publication Date 2003
Volume Number 37
Issue Number 2
ISSN 0815-7251   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Start Page 67
End Page 82
Total Pages 16
Place of Publication Canberra
Publisher Association for the Publication of Indonesian and Malaysian Studies
Field of Research 1699 - Other Studies in Human Society
HERDC Category C1 - Journal Article (DEST)
Abstract Guy Boothby's invention of a colonial heroine had all the signs of mystery, power and exotic allure: 'A mysterious female, who perambulated Eastern waters in a chameleon craft, blackmailing rajahs, abducting merchants, levying toll on mail boats, and bringing down on her devoted head the wrath of all sorts of nations, principalities, and powers' (Boothby 1896, 43), [Unless otherwise indicated, page numbers given below refer to this book.] Such is the exciting, enigmatic and highly transgressive central character of Boothby's fin de slede novel of imperial adventure, The Beautiful White Devil, published in 1896. Set in Borneo waters and the South China Sea, a region for centuries imagined as a scene of piratical activity, Boothby's novel centres on the exploits of a beautiful European woman engaged in robbery on the high seas, as well as kidnapping, holding to ransom, and blackmailing rich men whom she entices to fall in love with her. Australian-born, but pursuing a prolific literary career based in England, Boothby created in this work a popular figure of a colonial heroine. It will be argued here that an analysis of the literary construction of "such a impressive figure of female heroism can reveal much about fin de siiele thinking on matters of gender, race and imperialism. Furthermore, the character of Boothby's work as a popular writer seemingly overturns, and certainly throws into question, some generalisations that have been offered by literary scholars and historians concerning the nature of late nineteenth century colonial fiction.
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Created: Wed, 04 Mar 2009, 13:10:04 CST by Sarena Wegener