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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
79 fall 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Franklin’s aim in this book is ambi- tious: to tell the story of the Euro- pean encounter with Buddhism. That alone should make the book attractive to Westerners, though some might ask whether anything new could be written on this topic. Franklin puts such doubt to rest with his unique focus on popular literature in the Victorian period, which, he argues, can act as a barometer for the reception of Buddhist ideas in Europe. One of the main influences on Frank- lin’s writing is Edward Said (1935– 2003), the Palestinian literary theorist who robustly criticized the way the West has written about the East—par- ticularly Islam—as having more to do with the power of Western imperialism than Islam itself. In that vein, Franklin contends that the Buddhism absorbed by the Victorians was a construction that met Victorian needs, but distorted what Buddhism was really about. He calls it “discursive violence that supple- mented the physical violence of conquest and occupation.” Only certain aspects of Buddhism, he points out, could be assimilated and understood by the Vic- torians. With their emphasis on self-help and progress, other aspects were destined to be misunderstood or manipulated. The book is structured around five case studies: the life of the Buddha as represented in two Victorian poems; Buddhism and the emergence of so-called hybrid religions such as theosophy; the themes of reincarnation, karma, and desire in the novels of Marie Corelli and Rider Haggard; Buddhism and the con- struction of the self in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim; and the influence of the doc- trines of anatta (no-self) and nirvana on the European philosophy of nihilism. ElizabEth J. harris is a senior lecturer in the comparative study of religions at liverpool hope University in England. she is the author of Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter. The loTus and The lion: Buddhism and The BriTish empire J. Jeffrey franklin Cornell university press, 2008 $35; 288 pages (hardcover) reviewed by elizabeth J. harris Reviews The VicTorian Spin (From left) Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Rudyard Kipling, Marie Corelli, Alfred Percy Sinnett, Edwin Arnold