Thomas Burke's Dark Chinoiserie: "Limehouse Nights" and the Queer Spell of Chinatown

Thomas Burke's Dark Chinoiserie: "Limehouse Nights" and the Queer Spell of Chinatown


By (author) Anne Veronica Witchard

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  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Limited
  • Format: Hardback | 250 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 24mm | 699g
  • Publication date: 23 September 2009
  • Publication City/Country: Aldershot
  • ISBN 10: 0754658643
  • ISBN 13: 9780754658641
  • Illustrations note: includes 19 b&w illustrations
  • Sales rank: 1,030,256

Product description

Focusing on Thomas Burke's bestselling collection of short stories, "Limehouse Nights" (1916), this book contextualises the burgeoning cult of Chinatown in turn-of-the-century London. London's 'Chinese Quarter' owed its notoriety to the Yellow Perilism that circulated in Britain at the fin-de-siecle, a demonology of race and vice masked by outward concerns about degenerative metropolitan blight and imperial decline. Anne Witchard's interdisciplinary approach enables her to displace the boundaries that have marked Chinese studies, literary studies, critiques of Orientalism and empire, gender studies, and diasporic research, as she reassesses this critical moment in London's history. In doing so, she brings attention to Burke's hold on popular and critical audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. A much-admired and successful author in his time, Burke in his Chinatown stories destabilizes social orthodoxies in highly complex and contradictory ways. For example, his writing was formative in establishing the 'queerspell' that the very mention of Limehouse would exert on the public imagination, and circulating libraries responded to Burke's portrayal of a hybrid East End where young Cockney girls eat Chow Mein with chopsticks in the local cafes and blithely gamble their housekeeping money at Fan Tan by banning Limehouse Nights. Witchard's book forces us to rethink Burke's influence and shows that China and chinoiserie served as mirrors that reveal the cultural disquietudes of western art and culture.

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Author information

Anne Witchard is a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Westminster, UK.

Table of contents

Introduction: Thomas Burke's Limehouse Nights: Tales of Chinatown; Part I Chinoiserie: Enchantment.; Part II 'The Lamp of Young Aladdin': English Chineseness 1780-1900: 'Ritchenesse and plentiffullnesse'; The Chineseness of Ala-'u-'d-din; magical palaces: Chineseries in London; The pains of opium, 1839-1858; The fall of Far Cathay: 1859; From limelight to Limehouse.; Part III Inventing Chinatown: A threepenny omnibus ticket to 'Limey-housey-Causey-way'; Cockney John Chinaman; Thomas Burke's Nights in Town (1915).; Part IV The Laureate of Limehouse: Un monde artificiel des paysages d'opera comique; Locating Burke's Bohemia.; Part V Nymopholepsy: 'A fool and his folly'; Erotic fairylands of the fin-de siecle; 'Which is the reality and which the pantomime?'; Juvenile delinquents in Chinatown; Conclusion: Go, lovely rose: reading Burke after Lolita; Bibliography; Index.