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Cover image for product 0631226990
ISBN: 978-0-631-22699-4
320 pages
June 2016, ©2011, Wiley-Blackwell
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Main blurb (for internal use only - CHECK BEFORE USING IN PRINTED PUBLICITY):
This is potentially a classic account of its subject, as Chew's densely packed proposal (and sample material not included here, though sent to reviewers) abundantly shows. Informed by and engaging with existing scholarship and critical discourse, this volume aims to be a comprehensive and detailed History of Postcolonial Commonwealth English Literature, one which will convey to interested general readers as well as teachers and students in the field the beginnings of the subject, its richness and diversity, and its significant lines of growth. It will also provide a sense of critical perspective and direction. By 'postcolonial literature' is meant the literature in English which has emerged from Commonwealth countries since the mid-20th century. 1947, the year the first chunk of the British empire broke free to become independent India and Pakistan, will be adopted as a convenient beginning date.

The subject is a challenging one, given the size of the modern Commonwealth, the many and diverse cultural contexts it embraces, and the rapid flowering of Commonwealth / Postcolonial literature from 1947 to the present. Even with the tripartite model common to the Blackwell series, a main problem in preparing this proposal has been the structure of this History. Conventionally, academic approaches to the literary field divide the Commonwealth into five broad regions: South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), sub-Saharan Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, and Australasia (Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific islands). How then to present an overview -- 'Postcolonial literature' -- without eroding a sense of the distinctive literary traditions it brings together (e.g., Indian literature and Nigerian literature)? How to establish similarities without losing sight of difference? How to allow for divergences and unlikeness without too much rambling? With these considerations in mind, I have adopted a structural principle which will bring two movements into play: the synchronic and the diachronic, or, in other words, the History of Postcolonial literature and the histories of literatures from Commonwealth countries.

Contents and Coverage
Section I sets up the frame for Postcolonial literature with reference to aspects of imperial history and decolonization; Section II, divided into three parts, explores the beginnings and growth of the new literature within the five regions of the Commonwealth from 1947 to the present day; Section III considers some of the directions which Post-colonial literature could be expected to take in the 21st century.

'The Natives must either be kept down by a sense of our power, or they must willingly submit from a conviction that we are more wise, more just, more humane, and more anxious to improve their condition than any other rulers they could possibly have' (J. Farish, 'Minute' issued in the Bombay Presidency, 1838, quoted in Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, 1989, p.2).
Textual production -- maps, government reports, letters, journals, newspapers, histories, translations, imaginative literature, school books, etc. -- had a dominant part to play in the fabrication of the British empire. Coming three years after Thomas Macaulay's 'Minute on Education' which tipped the balance in favour of English in the debate between the 'Orientalists' and 'Anglicists' in India, Farish's implacable statement is a reminder of the crucial role colonial education undertook in the purveying and exercise of power. As Edward Said observes: 'The great colonial schools ... taught generations of the native bourgeoisie important truths about history, science, culture. Out of that learning process millions grasped the fundamentals of modern life, yet remained subordinate dependents of an authority based elsewhere than in their lives' (Culture and Imperialism, 1994, 269-70).

Colonial education was about (1) the material, cultural and moral superiority of the metropolitan society and (2) the civilizing mission of the British empire. Linguistic and cultural usurpation went hand in hand with political control, and 'One of the terrible things about being a colonial is that you must accept so many things as coming from a great wonderful source outside yourself and outside the people you know, outside the society you've grown up in' (V.S. Naipaul in interview, 1970). How then did colonial education, in particular English literary studies, help to construct and disseminate the narrative of empire? Making this question central to the first Section will enable me (a) to examine some of the myths and received ideas of empire, and the ways in which they were contested or subverted in the literature of resistance pre-1947 (e.g., C.L.R. James's The Black Jacobins) and, indeed, in the textuality of empire narratives themselves (e.g., Kipling's Indian stories); and (b) to begin to stake out the ground for this History, a significant area of which concerns the relationship between postcolonial literature and canonical works from the English literary tradition.

For an account of the kind of literary education provided by the colonial schools and universities, I shall in part rely on critical studies and essays, such as Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest, Harry Goulbourne, Teachers, Education and Politics in Jamaica, 1892-1972, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Writers in Politics, and Arun Mukherjee, 'Ideology in the classroom: A Case Study in the Teaching of English Literature in Canadian Univer-sities'. I shall also research on colonial educational policy and literature syllabuses, restricting my investigation to two or three exemplary cases. Lastly I shall draw freely upon the (auto)biographies of (post)colonial writers. As the editors of The Post-colonial Studies Reader remark, colonial education establishes 'the locally English or British as normative through critical claims to "universality" of the values embodied in English literary texts, and it represents the colonised to themselves as inherently inferior beings -- 'wild", "barbarous", "uncivilised"'. Accepting that, the question has still to be asked: to what extent is this crippling view of colonial education general to the writers? From R.K. Narayan's (1907- ) recollections, it is clear that, while syllabuses did frequently show an imperialist slant (English lessons in one school term consisted almost entirely of excerpts from exploration narrative), the experience gained in the classroom led to further and more fruitful explorations of Shakespeare, Pope, Scott, Dickens, the poets included in Palgrave's Golden Treasury. In addition the school had magazines (a rare privilege) from 'every part of the world', with Boys' Own Paper and Strand Magazine rubbing shoulders with Cornhill and Harper's and American Mercury. Derek Walcott's (1930- ) education at St Mary's College 'gave him a familiarity with European classics that would have been matched by few of his English contemporaries' (Derek Walcott, 1999). Shashi Deshpande puts across what is in the main an ambivalent attitude:
'I try to think objectively now of the British Empire as one founded accidentally by commercial adventurers, who did the best for themselves and, when it did not clash with their interests, for the people whom they were ruling. But no amount of objectivity can do away with the fact that self-interest was always paramount. And even if I look back without anger, a sorrow remains when I think of what was, of the erosion of self-esteem that still remains. Yet I can never forget that the Empire was for me the bridge to an enchanted world, one which opened up for me as soon as I read a book that began: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."' (Unbecoming Daughters of the Empire, 1993, p. 106).
Narayan and Deshpande were also educated in a knowledge of Sanskrit and regional Indian languages. They were well read in the Indian epics, the Gita, the songs of the saint-poets of south India, as well as modern writers like Tagore. In their imaginative writing, indigenous and borrowed ideas and forms meet, producing new hybrids whose crosscultural collisions, negotiations, and transformations are the subject of this History. Examples proliferate: European dramaturgy and ritual theatre in Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman; Homeric epic and Caribbean history in Walcott's Omeros; Mughal miniatures and Gothic romance in Anita Desai's Cry the Peacock; the ghazal form and feminist issues in Phyllis Webb's Water and Light, Aboriginal dreamtime and exploration literature in Patrick White's Voss, etc.
The narrative of empire represented colonized nations in metaphors of filiation and unity. (See Kipling, 'A Song of the English', 1893: 'Gifts have we only today -- Love without promise or fee --/ Hear, for thy children speak, from the uttermost parts of the sea!') Colonialism in reality assumed a variety of forms and the differences will be noted, particularly where the varied histories have helped to shape in distinctive ways post-colonial literature's imaginative and emotional response to the past. Examples are: (1) early encounters or beginnings, such as the emergence of British India out of a specific historical moment when 'the British trading concern was caught in the chain-drive of Indian power politics' (Nirad Chaudhuri, 1975); Australia's inauguration as a convict colony; the slave trade and plantations in the West Indies; and the wars of dispossession which secured countries such as Nigeria and South Africa; (2) the several trajectories of decolonization, so that, to mention just one instance, the Nationalist party in South Africa came to power on an apartheid platform in the late1940s, precisely at a time when South Asian countries were breaking free of white rule. It is partly in the light of this kind of asymmetry that the 'Drum' decade (1950s), for example, will be discussed in Section II.

The narrative of empire also leant towards a particular view of decolonization. It tended to see arrival at independence as a one-sided affair in which self-rule was a goal to be achieved through the paternalistic guidance of Britain. In broad temporal terms decolonization is usually split into three phases: (1) the loss of the American colonies following the War of American Independence, 1775-1783; (2) the creation of the 'white dominions' of Canada, 1867; Australia,1900; New Zealand, 1907; and South Africa, 1910, the process culminating in the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which granted the dominions full autonomy; and (3) the dismantling of the empire in South and South-East Asia, Africa, the Caribbean in the decades following World War 2. The fortunes of the empire were more turbulent than the standard histories made out. Behind the myth of Pax Britannica were recurrent slave revolts, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1957, the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865, the Maori wars of the 1840s and 1860s, the Anglo-Boer war, 1899-1902, the freedom struggle in India, Mau Mau revolt in Kenya, anti-apartheid protests in South Africa. Decolonization was, in short, a ravelled process, and, direct conflict apart, breaches against European domination were made in the domain of ideas. Seminal works of resistance literature to be considered in this History include C.L.R. James's The Black Jacobins (1938) which, in reply to Froude, argued that 'West Indians first became aware of themselves in the Haitian Revolution' of 1791-94; AimU CUsaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (1939; translated as Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, Bloodaxe, 1995), a long lyrical poem through which 'negritude' is figured forth as 'a positive image of their race for Black people all over the world', and became an influential concept in anti-colonial struggles in the Caribbean and in Africa; Jawaharlal Nehru's The Discovery of India (1946), a work of self- and nation-making produced through 'an elaboration of an Indian history that defied both the British and the Hindu nationalists' uses of history' (The Idea of India, 1997).

In the area of imaginative literature, it is important to avoid giving the impression of a long silence broken only after World War 2 by a clamour of voices. Reference and, where appropriate, detailed comment will be made, either in this section or, more likely, in the next, to early literary antecedents, such as Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Susanna Moodie, Marcus Clarke, Toru Dutt, Sara Jeanette Duncan, Charles McKay, Solomon Plaatje, Henry Lawson, Sarojini Naidu, Katherine Mansfield, Frederick Grove, Una Marson etc. The aim is to draw attention to already existing examples and traditions of colonial literature (this is especially true of Canada and Australia).

SECTION II: This section, divided into three parts, discusses the emergence and growth of Postcolonial literature within the five regions of the Commonwealth from 1947 to the present day. A distinctive feature here will be the general review of key themes and issues that introduces Parts One and Three, drawing in each instance upon the discursive prose published by the writers themselves. I want to make clear that Postcolonial novelists, poets and playwrights have always engaged in self-conscious theorizing of their art, and that Postcolonial critical theory (Part Two) is only one component, albeit a significant one, of Postcolonial discourse. Parts One and Three will in each instance be subdivided into:
(a) A general review of the preoccupations common among the writers in respectively 1947-1972 and 1975 to the present (b) India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (c) Africa (d) the Caribbean (e) Australia (f) Canada [Specimen outlines of the 'general review' and 'India' from Part One have been supplied and reviewed]

(1) 'Beginnings', covering the period 1947 to 1972, that is, from the achievement of independence by India and Pakistan to the first Australian Federal election at which Aboriginals were able to exercise freely their constitutional right to vote. [See attached samples.] The dates are intended as symbolic markers and not strict boundary lines. A novel such as Kanthapura, which was published in 1938, will be discussed as well as Ayi Kwei Armah, Two Thousand Seasons (Ghana) and Witi Ihimaera, Tangi (New Zealand) which appeared in 1973; and Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist (South Africa) and Margaret Laurence, The Diviners (Canada) which appeared in 1974.

(2) 'The Impact of Theory', covering the period 1978 to the present day. Although Edward Said's Orientalism is taken here as marking, institutionally, the rise and influence of Postcolonial discourse theory, the discussion will necessarily embrace key writers and works that predate the period when the term 'postcolonial' began to gain currency, for example, Sol T. Plaatje, Mohandas Gandhi, AimU CUsaire, and Frantz Fanon. It will also probe the criticisms directed against the practitioners and ideas of Postcolonial theory.

(3) 'Old roots and new growth', covering the period 1975 to the present. In 1975 Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency in India. I take this date as marking a strong shift in the focus of the literature of this period from the history of the colonized nation to that of the post-independence modern nation state, even while recognizing the two histories cannot be untwined. Examples of this literature are: Salman Rushdie, Shame (1983); Nayantara Sahgal, Rich Lke Us (1985); Peter Carey, Illywhacker (1985); Ben Okri, Incidents at the Shrine (1986); Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah (1987); Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines (1988); Bapsi Sidhwa, The Ice-Candy-Man (1988); Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy (1993); Wole Soyinka, The Beatification of Area Boy (1995).

In addition, demographic shifts have meant that the communal solidarity of the earlier period has yielded to more uncertain cultural affiliations. As Said points out, a new species of writer -- the migrant -- stands today at the forefront of our intellectual and literary landscape. This section explores the poetics of migrant writing -- the new angles at which writers seek to enter reality, and the dynamics of the local and the global which characterize the narratives of transnational histories and of identities of 'in-betweenness'. Examples include Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman's Poems (1984); V.S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival (1987) and A Way in the World (1994); Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (1988); Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (1992); Janette Turner Hospital, The Last Magician (1992); Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land (1992); Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River (1993).

There will be works discussed which do not fit the thematic categories above, such as Elizabeth Jolley, Foxybaby (1985), Amit Chaudhuri, Afternoon Raag (1993), Shirley Lim, Monsoon History (1994), Shashi Deshpande, A Matter of Time (1996), Alice Munro, The Love of a Good Woman (1998) and other examples of her short fiction, Murray Bail, Eucalyptus (1999).

SECTION III: This section considers some of the directions which Postcolonial literature could be expected to take in the 21st century. Emphasis will be given to Australian Aboriginal writing, First Nation Canadian literature, translation, new writers who started to publish their first work in the 1990s (the africa95 season, for example, brought to attention the work of a younger generation of writers from the African continent and of the African diaspora), etc.
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