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Postcolonizing the Commonwealth

Studies in Literature and Culture

Rowland Smith

Publication Year: 2000

Women and resistance in Iran; cowboy songs; fetal alcohol syndrome; the conquest of Everest; women settlers in Natal. What do these topics have in common?

The study of what used to be called Commonwealth literature, or the new literatures, has by now come to be known as postcolonial study.This collection of essays investigates the status of postcolonial studies today.

The contributors come from three generations: the pioneers who introduced study of the “new” literatures into university English departments, the next generation who refined and developed many of the theoretical positions embodied in postcolonial study, and the next, much younger, generation, who use the established practices of the discipline to investigate the application of this theory in a wide range of cultural contexts.

Although the authors write from such different starting points, a surprisingly similar set of images, phrases and topics of concern emerge in their essays. They return constantly to issues of difference and similarity, the re-examination of categories that often appear to be too rigidly defined in current postcolonial practices, and to concepts of sharing: experience, ideas of home, and even the use of land.

Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture offers an intriguing analysis of the state of postcolonial criticism today and of the application of postcolonial methods to a variety of texts and historical events. It is an invaluable contribution to the current debate in both literary and cultural studies.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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p. v-v


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p. vi-vi

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pp. 1-10

All but one of these essays originated as papers delivered in November 1997 at the ‘‘Commonwealth in Canada’’ conference held at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario—one of the triennial conferences organized by the Canadian...

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1. Postcolonial / Commonwealth Studies in the Caribbean: Points of Difference

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pp. 11-18

In this paper the Caribbean will be, for all practical purposes, the University of the West Indies. This is just a report, but a personal one, on the development and condition of Postcolonial /Commonwealth Studies in the University, and...

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2. Proximities: From Asymptote to Zeugma

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pp. 19-38

I have had some time off from teaching recently. I thought it might be a good moment to think about my midlife crisis. It seems that one of the characteristics of a good midlife crisis is learning how to deal productively with unfinished...

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3. Looking in from "Beyond": Commonwealth Studies in French Universities

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pp. 39-50

In my reflection on Commonwealth studies in Europe and more particularly in France, I have found no help with the trinity of French thinkers, Derrida, Lacan and Foucault, not to mention Kristeva and Irigaray. I did find some theoretical guidance...

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4. Climbing Mount Everest: Postcolonialism in the Culture of Ascent

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pp. 51-74

It scarcely needs saying that ‘‘Mount Everest’’ is not just ‘‘there.’’1 As just about every book on Himalayas mountaineering likes to point out, ‘‘Mount Everest’’ was hoisted into physical—and cultural—ascendency through a prodigious act of...

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5. Afrikaners, Africans and Afriquas: Métissage in Breyten Breytenbach’s Return to Paradise

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pp. 75-86

In a speech at the University of Stellenbosch in 1990, Breyten Breytenbach identified himself as an ‘‘Afrikaner, South African and African’’ (1996:32). At a conference on the theme of ‘‘Identity and Differences’’ in Senegal the previous year...

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6. Inheritance in Question: The Magical Realist Mode in Afrikaans Fiction

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pp. 87-98

What I hope to do in this essay is take some of the liberty provided by magical realism’s broad and sometimes conflicting hermeneutics to address the ways in which this mode has been employed in some recent Afrikaans fiction. My discussion...

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7. Natal Women’s Letters in the 1850s: Ellen McLeod, Eliza Feilden, Gender and "Second-World" Ambi/valence

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pp. 99-114

A distinction between the positionality felt in settler writing and in imperialist writing has recently become crucial in postcolonial studies; in support of this distinction, Stephen Slemon and Alan Lawson have both argued that...

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8. Rural Women and African Resistance: Lauretta Ngcobo’s Novel And They Didn’t Die

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pp. 115-132

Debates about the relationship of culture, ideology and the politics of literary representation are complex. Frantz Fanon wrote in Toward the African Revolution,/em> that the process of industrialization camouflaged racism: ‘‘the perfecting of the...

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9. Five Minutes of Silence: Voices of Iranian Feminists in the Postrevolutionary Age

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pp. 133-144

In March of 1979, one month after the anti-imperial revolution in Iran, the country sustained five days of mass feminist demonstrations. Although a large body of outspoken Iranian women had marched against the oppressive practices of the monarchy during the revolutionary period, these same women, now at...

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10. FAS and Cultural Discourse: Who Speaks for Native Women?

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pp. 145-156

On 6 August 1996, Justice Perry Schulman of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ordered a twenty-two-year-old Native woman from Winnipeg’s inner city to enter a drug treatment program for substance addiction. The woman, who was...

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11. Can Rohinton Mistry’s Realism Rescue the Novel?

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pp. 157-166

On the back cover of the American paperback edition of Rohinton Mistry’s recent novel A Fine Balance, there is an excerpt from the New York Times: ‘‘Those who continue to harp on the decline of the novel ought to . . . consider Rohinton...

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12. Dislocations of Culture: Unhousing and the Unhomely in Salman Rushdie’s Shame

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pp. 167-180

While subjectivity may be located in a desire for home— a desire to be rooted in or affiliated with a certain ethos or place, for example, or in a particular gendered, racial, sexual, class or cultural identity—the notion of home...

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13. A Vision of Unity: Brathwaite, Ngugi, Rushdie and the Quest for Authenticity

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pp. 181-195

This paper addresses three questions. First, how are writers and intellectuals creating, maintaining or giving voice to authentic, local cultural traditions in the face of rapid globalization? Second, is there a global voice or tradition growing up...

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14. Cowboy Songs, Indian Speeches and the Language of Poetry

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pp. 189-208

Cowboys are not particularly popular these days, at least among postcolonial academics. Indians are. In both cases, the reasons are not entirely plausible, though plausibility has never interfered with fashion. So I thought it might be...


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pp. 209-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780889206076
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889203525

Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2000