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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 2, spring 2004 CHELVA KANAGANAYAKAM Pedagogy and Postcolonial Literature; or, Do We Need a Centre for Postcolonial Studies? That is not it at all That is not what I meant, at all >The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock= Prufrock is an unusual figure to invoke in a discussion that seeks to critically analyse the multiple concerns that frame, determine, circumscribe, and shape the practice of teaching postcolonial literature. To do so is not to draw an implicit parallel between the perplexing questions that, almost one hundred years ago, tormented this character and the kinds of issues that we encounter in postcolonial studies. But there is a deep-seated ambivalence at the heart of postcolonial pedagogy, created for the most part by constraints that we often choose not to address, that is reminiscent of Prufrock=s predicament. Prufrock, like the postcolonial scholar, is at least in part trapped by a language whose relation to the ontology it seeks to express is suspect. Also, Prufrock=s defensive stance is a valuable one to remember, particularly because to say anything at all about pedagogy and postcolonial studies is to invite multiple and contradictory responses, all of which may be, in some contexts, true. While it is evident that some stances have been misinformed or simply wrong-headed, in most cases pronouncements about the status of postcolonial studies have been both true and false. Without generalizations, it is often difficult to embrace the multiplicity of the field. By the same token, such generalizations tend to be simplistic assertions that offer partial truths. There is a particular urgency to the questions I wish to raise in this paper. In different contexts some of these questions have been asked before and those who ask them often suggest answers hoping that the issues would be put to rest, only to realize later that their views get transformed to join the repertoire of questions. This paper, then, is in no way prescriptive. If anything, it hopes to reopen familiar debates in order to shift the focus from academic study and research to the classroom as an important site for understanding and interpreting postcolonial studies. It seeks to scrutinize, among other things, the framework of universities and the exclusivity of English departments that often embrace postcolonial studies as a significant area of inquiry and also enclose it in ways that may be counterproductive. 726 chelva kanaganayakam university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 2, spring 2004 Many of us whose academic area of specialization is postcolonial literature tend to be, in some ways, associated with English departments. Even writers, if they are not academics themselves, are mindful of what English departments say. Writers, when they are not directly associated with universities, may accept positions as writers-in-residence or give readings at universities to promote their works. To question the role of the university or the English department is not to bite the hand that has helped to feed postcolonial studies and provide the infrastructure for the field to play a significant role in a rapidly globalizing world. This paper is not so much about subversion as about our penchant for dwelling in an ivory tower from which we often judge and appraise the relevance and merit of literature without quite realizing that our position itself needs to be interrogated. Are English departments, with their convictions about which texts to teach and how to teach them, about how to contextualize and unpack texts, necessarily the most hospitable places for postcolonial studies?1 Are there other models worth exploring, and if there are, what price do we pay for changing our locations? If we accept, provisionally, that the metaphor of the ivory tower is one that postcolonialists, deeply committed to social and political concerns, would like to jettison very quickly, how, then, would we combine forms of engagement with a disciplinary and institutional focus? Do we need to explore the possibility of a centre for postcolonial studies as an alternative home where it might enjoy the company of, say, women=s studies or international relations?2 More than ten years ago, Wolfgang Zach published an essay in Asian Voices in English (1991...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 725-738
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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