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Reviewed by:
Feroza F. Jussawalla. Family Quarrels: Towards a Criticism of Indian Writing in English. American University Studies Series IV: English Language and Literature 17. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. 209 pp. $29.20.

Western-language writing from the former colonies in the so-called "third world" has often appeared to Western critics as problematic and confused. Known variously as "Commonwealth literature," "Third World literature" and "Post-Colonial literature," this writing has attracted a variety of critical responses in the West, from Frederic Jameson's dismissal of it as a series of "national allegories" (69), to Diana Brydon's hailing of it as cross-cultural and varied (3). On the other hand, non-Western critics have generally tended to provide more sensitive and insightful definitions and critiques, such as Frantz Fanon's description of it as one produced by a society which has experienced racial and cultural oppression, and which is still struggling to become "free" (219); or, on a more positive note, Ashis Nandy's view of it as one that incorporates a "universalism" or state of mind that includes the colonial experience, with all its agony, and creates from it a more mature and more sensitive tradition (75). Whatever the perspective, the focus of writers and critics has usually been on the depiction of the post-colonial condition and its implications both in the West and in the colonies. Hence it comes as a change to find a detailed analysis of how criticism has failed the postcolonial writer, which Jussawalla's study sets itself out to be. Unfortunately it focuses only on the so-called "Commonwealth" writers from India like Narayan and Das, the most recent novelist being Salman Rushdie. Even the datedness of its content is not a problem per se since it offers numerous good insights, but its method also lacks originality and development: it analyzes, in a new critical way, the conflict between form and content and, in a reader-response manner, the role of audience. The most interesting aspect of Jussawalla's approach is her application of linguistic theories of language as a culturally determining phenomenon to tackle the problem of form and content. However, she fails to place language and theme in their culturally specific contexts when analyzing different writers, despite pointing out the urgent need to do so.

Jussawalla's thesis (and she reiterates this many times) is that Indian literature in English has developed primarily as a response to the criticism of it (ix), and is not due to any clearly-developed moral or ideological theories; yet the criticism itself is a failure because it is based on subjective prejudices and imitation, rather than on a text's "linguistic and social contextual background" (x). As such, she calls for a criticism based on context-analysis that deals with "ends" and ideals and not just style or language-use (190). That is, criticism must take into account a text's "particular, local and regional reality of language, theme and particularities of context" (193), because the critic is part creator and both literature and criticism are, in fact, complementary (192). In order to do this, she recommends that critics should apply what she calls a "holistic approach" (45), or, an analysis of both form and content together.

Jussawalla divides her book into seven chapters which seem to fall into four sections. First, she provides an overview of Indo-Anglian writers [End Page 219] and critics and their thematic concerns (chapter 1), pointing out that Indian critics were subjective and prejudiced (18), while Western critics relied on plot summaries and explanation of themes (28). Next, Jussawalla discusses the criticism of certain selected novelists and poets, showing it to be subjective and imitative (chapters 2 through 4). The criticism of the poetry fails, she argues, because it is "decontextualized" and does not analyze both form and content. By way of example, she suggests that Kamala Das's poetry should be explained in view of the "sociological facts of a modern Nayar woman in a changing India" (50). The criticism of the fiction fails, she suggests, because it relies on the Sapir-Whorf linguistic hypothesis that a person's thought is determined...


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