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Empire and Poetic Voice

Cognitive and Cultural Studies of Literary Tradition and Colonialism

Patrick Colm Hogan

Publication Year: 2004

In Empire and Poetic Voice Patrick Colm Hogan draws on a broad and detailed knowledge of Indian, African, and European literary cultures to explore the way colonized writers respond to the subtle and contradictory pressures of both metropolitan and indigenous traditions. He examines the work of two influential theorists of identity, Judith Butler and Homi Bhabha, and presents a revised evaluation of the important Nigerian critics, Chinweizu, Jemie, and Madubuike. In the process, he presents a novel theory of literary identity based equally on recent work in cognitive science and culture studies. This theory argues that literary and cultural traditions, like languages, are entirely personal and only appear to be a matter of groups due to our assertions of categorical identity, which are ultimately both false and dangerous.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series, Explorations in Postcolonial Studies


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Parts of the introduction and chapter 5 were presented at the 2000 Modern Language Association convention in Washington, D.C. An earlier version of portions of chapter 1 was presented at the 1995 Modern Language Association convention in Chicago. A few paragraphs of chapter 2 appeared previously in “Historical Economies of Race and Gender in Bengal: Ray and Tagore on the Home and the World...

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Introduction: Decolonizing Literary Identity

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pp. 1-30

Almost a quarter century ago, Chinweizu, Jemie, and Madubuike issued their famous call for the decolonization of African literature. They began by asserting that anyone “concerned for the health of African culture” should look at “the ways and means whereby Western imperialism has maintained its hegemony over African literature, and the effect of that hegemony upon the literary arts of contemporary Africa” (x)...

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1. Ideological Ambiguities of “Writing Back”: Anita Desai and George Lamming in the Heart of Darkness

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pp. 31-52

It is a virtual commonplace of cognitive psychology that we do not perceive, recall, understand the world, other people, ourselves, by some direct and immediate experience of reality. The “manifold of intuition,” as Kant called it, must be shaped and oriented, structured by concepts, schemas, categories of understanding. A world of pure sense data would not be a world of perfect knowledge, but a chaos...

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2. Revising Indigenous Precursors, Reimagining Social Ideals: Tagore's The Home and the World and Valmiki's Rāmāyana

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pp. 53-90

Many Hindus refer to the ideal state, the perfect society, as “Ramarajya,” the rule of Rama. In saying this, they identify this ideal with the legendary kingdom of Rama, depicted in one of the two great Sanskrit epics, Valmêki’s Ramayana. Within the Hindu tradition, to reimagine the ideal state almost necessarily involves reimagining the story...

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3. Subaltern Myths Drawn from the Colonizer: Dream on Monkey Mountain and the Revolutionary Jesus

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pp. 91-124

Though postcolonization writers no doubt rarely conceived of the issue explicitly in these terms, one solution to the problem illustrated in the two novels by Desai and Lamming is to explore subaltern strains in the metropolitan tradition. As I argued in the first chapter, Desai’s representation of India and Lamming’s representation of Afro-Caribbeans appear to have been distorted, at least to some degree, by the use of ideologically oppressive metropolitan models...

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4. Preserving the Voice of Ancestors: Yoruba Myth and Ritual in The Palm-Wine Drinkard

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pp. 125-156

As we saw in the case of Tagore, indigenous religion and myth can operate in much the same way as metropolitan religion and myth. For while Tagore was writing back to a single indigenous work, he was simultaneously writing back to a work of singular religious and mythic importance. Clearly, he saw this work as perniciously hierarchy preserving and he set about writing back to it for that reason...

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5. Outdoing the Colonizer: Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Walcott

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pp. 157-196

considered their place in the transformation of precursor works. Reference sets bear on the tasks of the postcolonization writer in a range of other ways as well. Perhaps most significantly for our purposes, they are of central importance to cultural and literary self-evaluation and thus to cultural and literary identity. Moreover, their consequences in this regard are not merely general...

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6. Indigenous Tradition and the Individual Talent: Agha Shahid Ali, Laila/Majnoon, and the Ghazal

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pp. 197-226

Walcott set out, again, to overcome or outdo a tradition that had been employed to denigrate the cultures of colonized peoples and to stifle their aspirations to nationhood. In doing this, he took up the epic genre, the genre of nationhood, and shifted the subject from the colonizing country to the colonized country, from the colonizing “race” to the colonized people...

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Afterword: “We Are All Africans”: The Universal Privacy of Tradition

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pp. 227-236

In the preceding pages, I have referred to such entities as European tradition, Hindu tradition, and so forth. In many ways, this is misleading. By stressing the existence of subversive components in these traditions, and by pointing to cases of corrective revision within a single tradition, I have indicated that traditions are far from unitary...


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pp. 237-242

Glossary of Selected Theoretical Concepts

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pp. 243-256

Works Cited

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pp. 257-274


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pp. 275-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485699
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459638
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459632

Page Count: 299
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series, Explorations in Postcolonial Studies
Series Editor Byline: Emmanuel C. Eze See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 57566644
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Empire and Poetic Voice

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Influence (Literary, artistic, etc.).
  • Literature, Modern ‡x History and criticism.
  • Postcolonialism -- English-speaking countries.
  • Commonwealth literature (English) -- History and criticism.
  • English literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Colonies in literature.
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