Empire and Poetic Voice
Cognitive and Cultural Studies of Literary Tradition and Colonialism
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: State University of New York Press
EMPIRE AND POETIC VOICE
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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...
Introduction: Decolonizing Literary Identity
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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)...
1. Ideological Ambiguities of “Writing Back”: Anita Desai and George Lamming in the Heart of Darkness
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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...
2. Revising Indigenous Precursors, Reimagining Social Ideals: Tagore's The Home and the World and Valmiki's Rāmāyana
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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...
3. Subaltern Myths Drawn from the Colonizer: Dream on Monkey Mountain and the Revolutionary Jesus
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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...
4. Preserving the Voice of Ancestors: Yoruba Myth and Ritual in The Palm-Wine Drinkard
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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...
5. Outdoing the Colonizer: Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Walcott
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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...
6. Indigenous Tradition and the Individual Talent: Agha Shahid Ali, Laila/Majnoon, and the Ghazal
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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...
Afterword: “We Are All Africans”: The Universal Privacy of Tradition
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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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Glossary of Selected Theoretical Concepts
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Page Count: 299
Publication Year: 2004
Series Title: SUNY series, Explorations in Postcolonial Studies