“Rebellion in the Celestial Empire”: Sino-Irish sympathy in Sydney Owenson’s 'Florence Macarthy'

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Lloyd, N (2016)

This article focuses on the relationship between China and Ireland in Sydney Owenson’s Florence Macarthy (1818). It takes as its starting point Peter Kitson’s formulation of an emergent “Romantic Sinology,” which finds its basis in the processes of intercultural transmission that took place between Georgian Britain and Qing China in the Romantic period. The article focuses on the interaction between China and Ireland within the wider context of Enlightenment formations of sympathy, suggesting that Owenson’s depiction of China is closely linked to the aesthetic of sensibility and its implied model of an emergent cosmopolitanism based on cross-cultural sympathetic identification. In doing so, it positions the novel within a body of writing about China and Ireland that includes John Wilson Croker’s An Intercepted Letter from J– T–, Esq. Writer at Canton, to His Friend in Dublin, Ireland (1804), exposing a number of shared concerns in the writing of Owenson and Croker which have hitherto been overlooked. Reading discourses of Sino-Irish cultural exchange in terms of Enlightenment models of sympathy reveals how depictions of China operated as a central component in the articulation and formation of British identity in the Romantic period, problematising and rearticulating established models of international cultural assimilation.
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