Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Textile Orientalisms
Cashmere and Paisley Shawls in British Literature and Culture

By Suchitra Choudhury

“An original and arresting piece of scholarship…. With its broad range, it should find a wide readership among those interested in fashion and the novel, literary critics, and cultural and imperial historians alike.”

Kate Teltscher, author of India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India, 1600–1800

"The definitive work on the subject of Cashmere and Paisley shawls in all of their intricate significances within eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English history and fiction…. Magisterial.”

Deborah Denenholz Morse, Sara E. Nance Professor of English, College of William & Mary

The first major study of Cashmere and Paisley shawls in nineteenth-century British literature, this book shows how they came to represent both high fashion and the British Empire.

During the late eighteenth century, Cashmere shawls from the Indian subcontinent began arriving in Britain. At first, these luxury goods were tokens of wealth and prestige. Subsequently, affordable copies known as “Paisley” shawls were mass-produced in British factories, most notably in the Scottish town of the same name. Textile Orientalisms is the first full-length study of these shawls in British literature of the extended nineteenth century. Attentive to the juxtaposition of objects and their descriptions, the book analyzes the British obsession with Indian shawls through a convergence of postcolonial, literary, and cultural theories.

Surveying a wide range of materials—plays, poems, satires, novels, advertisements, and archival sources—Suchitra Choudhury argues that while Cashmere and Paisley shawls were popular accoutrements in Romantic and Victorian Britain, their significance was not limited to fashion. Instead, as visible symbols of British expansion, for many imaginative writers they emerged as metaphorical sites reflecting the pleasures and anxieties of the empire. Attentive to new theorizations of history, fashion, colonialism, and gender, the book offers innovative readings of works by Sir Walter Scott, Wilkie Collins, William Thackeray, Frederick Niven, and Elizabeth Inchbald. In determining a key status for shawls in nineteenth-century literature, Textile Orientalisms reformulates the place of fashion and textiles in imperial studies.

The book’s distinction rests primarily on three accounts. First, in presenting an original and extended discussion of Cashmere and Paisley shawls, Choudhury offers a new way of interpreting the British Empire. Second, by tracing how shawls represented the social and imperial experience, she argues for an associative link between popular consumption and the domestic experience of colonialism on the one hand and a broader evocation of texts and textiles on the other. Finally, discussions about global objects during the Victorian period tend to overlook that imperial Britain not only imported goods but also produced their copies and imitations on an industrial scale. By identifying the corporeal tropes of authenticity and imitation that lay at the heart of nineteenth-century imaginative production, Choudhury’s work points to a new direction in critical studies.

Suchitra Choudhury is a research fellow supported by the William Lind Foundation at the University of Glasgow and an independent scholar. Her articles have appeared in Textile History and Victorian Literature and Culture. She is the cocurator of the display Paisley Shawls in Literature at Scotland’s Paisley Museum (2023).   More info →

Order a print copy

Hardcover · $64 ·

Retail price: $80.00 · Save 20% ($64)

Cover of Textile Orientalisms

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Review Copy

This book is not yet available for desk or examination copy requests. Please check back soon.

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center


Retail price: $80.00, S.
Release date: January 2023
12 illus. · 248 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: January 2023
12 illus. · 248 pages
Rights:  World

Related Titles

Cover of 'The Moxon Tennyson'

The Moxon Tennyson
A Landmark in Victorian Illustration
By Simon Cooke

Cooke’s analysis of this milestone Victorian publication reveals the fluctuating harmony and dissonance between Tennyson’s poems and their illustrations, the technical challenges and occupations involved in its manufacture, its readers’ contemporary reception, and its subsequent influence as a variously revered and reviled publication.

Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · Literary Criticism | Modern | 19th Century · Victorian Studies · Publishing

Cover of 'Michael Field'

Michael Field
Decadent Moderns
Edited by Sarah Parker and Ana Parejo Vadillo

As “Michael Field,” Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper conversed with fin-de-siècle aesthetic movements and twentieth-century modernism, articulated ideas associated with the New Woman, and expressed queer desire. Essays address Michael Field’s engagements with a range of cultural touchstones, highlighting their work’s radicalism and relevance.

Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · LGBT Studies · Victorian Studies

Cover of 'Culture and Money in the Nineteenth Century'

Culture and Money in the Nineteenth Century
Abstracting Economics
Edited by Daniel Bivona and Marlene Tromp

Grounded in literary studies and spanning the Americas, India, England, and Scotland, this book explores the relationship between economic concepts and culture in the period, focusing on how economic tropes were abstracted into other discourses in fields as diverse as evolutionary science, business, or literary narrative.

Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · Economic History · Literature · Victorian Studies

Cover of 'Drawing on the Victorians'

Drawing on the Victorians
The Palimpsest of Victorian and Neo-Victorian Graphic Texts
Edited by Anna Maria Jones and Rebecca N. Mitchell
· Afterword by Kate Flint

Late nineteenth-century Britain experienced an unprecedented explosion of visual print culture and a simultaneous rise in literacy across social classes. New printing technologies facilitated quick and cheap dissemination of images—illustrated books, periodicals, cartoons, comics, and ephemera—to a mass readership. This Victorian visual turn prefigured the present-day impact of the Internet on how images are produced and shared, both driving and reflecting the visual culture of its time.From

Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · Comics and Graphic Novel Culture · Victorian Studies

Sign up to be notified when new Victorian Studies titles come out.

We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.