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Twisted Words

Torture and Liberalism in Imperial Britain

Katherine Judith Anderson

234 pp. 6 x 9
Pub Date: April, 2022

Subjects: Victorian Studies
Literary Studies, British & Irish

Order Hardcover $69.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1512-8
Order PDF ebook$49.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-8201-4

“While Twisted Words is groundbreaking in terms of the extraordinarily broad range of literary and non-literary Victorian texts it surveys, its most original feature is its consideration of violence in torture as not sadistic but used to advance the agenda of the state. Scholars of various disciplines will find Twisted Words both provocative and challenging.” —Jarlath Killeen, author of The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction: History, Origins, Theories

Twisted Words: Torture and Liberalism in Imperial Britain examines torture across the fiction, periodicals, and government documents of the British Empire in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Placing acts of torture and words about torture in relation to changing definitions of citizenship and human rights, Katherine Judith Anderson argues that torture—as a technique of state terrorism—evolved in relation to nineteenth-century liberalism, combining the traditional definition of exceptional acts of cruelty with systemic, banal, or everyday violence. Analyzing canonical novels by George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and George Meredith alongside an impressive array of lesser-known fiction through the lenses of critical terrorism studies and political, legal, and phenomenological theory, Anderson rethinks torture as a mode of reclaiming an embodied citizenship and demonstrates how the Victorians ushered in our modern definition of torture. Furthermore, she argues that torture is foundational to Western modernity, since liberalism was, and continues to be, dependent on state-sanctioned—and at times state-sponsored—torture, establishing parallels between Victorian liberal thought and contemporary (neo)imperialism and global politics.

Katherine Judith Anderson is Assistant Professor in the English Department at Western Washington University.


Introduction    Torture, Terrorism, Liberalism, Citizenship
Chapter 1        Church: Sensory Liberalism and Liturgies of Torture
Chapter 2        Imperial Bureaucracy: Liberal Modernity and the Banality of Empire
Chapter 3        Military: Liberal Citizens Versus Military Habitus
Chapter 4        Family: Gendered Liberalism and Patriarchal Sovereignty
Chapter 5        Settler: Liberal Sovereignty and Vigilante Terrorism
Coda    The Way We Liberate Now

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