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Landscape and the mask of self in George Orwell's ‘Shooting an elephant’

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Recent work in geography has focused attention on the imbrication of landscape and literature. A dominant thread of these ‘fictive geographies’ has been a concern with how imagined landscapes contribute to the constitution of self. Informed especially by post-structuralism and post-colonialism, geographers have recently provided critical readings of novels, short stories and essays. In this paper I provide a reading of George Orwell's essay ‘Shooting an elephant’. The writings of Orwell reveal a long-standing engagement with issues of humanity and subjectivity, and I contend that this essay, rather than a straightforward polemic against British imperialism, reveals a concern primarily with the constitution of self within a colonial landscape. Orwell's essay thus provides insight into the processes whereby human subjectivities interact with space and structures.

Keywords: George Orwell; landscape; literature; post-colonialism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242, USA, Email:

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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