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A Literary Turn


Postcolonialism: A Literary Turn

Michael Chapman

Is there a role for literature - or, to be specific, imaginative literature, or the literary - in postcolonial studies?  And where may one locate South Africa in a field delineated by northern institutional purposes, practices, paradigms and, more pragmatically, career/publishing opportunities?  Such questions provoked by a current project, titled "Postcolonialism: A South/African Perspective", which has eventuated in this selection of essays.

Having developed as a set of conceptual and perceptual resources for the study of the effects on people's lives of colonial modernity - from its Renaissance expansions to contemporary manifestations of global capital - postcolonialism has come to describe heterogeneous, though linked, groupings of critical enterprises:  a critique of Western totalising narratives;  a revision of the Marxian class project;  utilisation of both poststructural enquiry (the displaced linguistic subject) and postmodern pursuit (scepticism of the truth claims of Cartesian individualism);  the condition of both nativist longing for independence from the metropolitan power and recognition of the failure of the decolonisation trajectory;  a marker for voices of pronouncement by non-resident, ‘Third-World' intellectual cadres in ‘First-World' universities.  More positively from the perspective of the South - if, indeed, postcolonialism, as Robert J.C. Young has it, is a mark of "the West's own undoing" (2001: 65) - there is a focusing of the ethical and imaginative lens on expression, writing, and testimony outside of, or in tangential relation to, the metropolitan centre-space.  Such a focus, in curricular design, involves new selections of texts and revised reading practices prompted by what was earlier called Commonwealth literature or, more recently, new literatures in English or, simply, the new englishes. 

I refer lastly in the above list to literary matters.  For postcolonialism identifies its priorities not as literary, but as political or ideological.  Again to quote Young, who visited South Africa under the auspices of this project:

The assumption of postcolonial studies is that many of the wrongs, if not crimes, against humanity are a product of the economic dominance of the north over the south.  In this way, the historical role of Marxism in the history of anti-colonial resistance remains paramount as a fundamental framework of postcolonial thinking.  Postcolonial theory operates within the historical legacy of Marxist critique...which it simultaneously transforms according to the precedent of the greatest tricontinental anti-colonial intellectual politicians. (2001: 6)

With tricontinental referring here to Africa, Asia, and Latin America, it is indeed political figures, or at least philosophical spokespersons, not literary people, who feature most prominently in Young's monumental Postcolonialism:  An Historical Introduction (2001), from which the above passage is taken.

There is seemingly a paradox here.  For postcolonialism has sought to accord value to the personal or human dimension - the effects on people's lives - of asymmetrical power relations between North and South.  The field - however mixed in its material and cultural presuppositions - has struck, continues to strike, a chord in literature departments which, as Young has noted, constitute the "solitary space within academic institutions where subjective forms of knowledge were taken seriously" (2001: 64).  Yet a literary turn - my qualifier to the title of this Introduction - requires defence not only because of its marginalisation in postcolonial political mapping and revisionism, but also because of its status in the field as handmaiden to theory.  In its discursive categorisations - its Foucauldian acts of enunciation by which the postcolonial formulates the condition of its own possibility (see Foucault 1970) - postcolonial theory predominates as sense-maker, or event-maker, over and above the experiential terrain to which its theory directs its diagnostic or emblematic or, too often, its obscurantist pronunciations.  After twenty-five years of northern institutional postcolonialism - its beginning is usually tied to the publication of Edward Said's entirely lucid study, Orientalism (1978) - we encounter a repetitious opposition between the ‘framework ideas', principally, of Said, Spivak and Bhabha, designated compositely as the linguistic-cultural or poststructural turn, and the ‘conflict ideas' of a persistent Marxist materialism in, among others, Ahmad and San Juan Jr.[i]  In what too often is reminiscent of binary argument, the theory or methodology stands the danger of replicating the very power positions it wishes to challenge:  "the West and the rest of us".[ii]

The ordering of the questions, in consequence, has led to scepticisms emanating from those of ‘South' identity.  Such scepticisms are summarised in Kwame Anthony Appiah's wicked parody - does he, ensconsed in the northern university, include himself in his parody? - of postcoloniality as "the condition of a relatively small western-style, western-trained group of writers and thinkers, who mediate the trade in cultural commodities of world capitalism at the periphery" (1992: 63).  What constitutes a nation; what, an ethnic group; what, the new world order; what may oppose the hegemony of U.S. imperialism?  These questions characterise the utopian agenda of postcolonialism: the aim being a just social or, more precisely, a socialist world, in which class is again granted significant explanatory power, and in which the issues of race, gender, and the translation of cultures are posited upon the value of difference.  In such an agenda, difference, or différance (see Derrida 1978), does not confirm division, but transforms ‘othering' from negative to positive premise.

The utopian model, however, may be as totalising in its configuration as the narrative of Enlightenment-modernity against which, in almost mantra-like reaction (race, class, the unfinished business of gender), postcolonialism regularly pits its opposition.  Its cultural materialist tendency seeks to resurrect a Leftish programme of social action in the wake of Thatcherism and, now, in reaction to U.S. capitalist and military adventurism.[iii]  The emphasis on difference opposes what in neo-liberal global-speak is termed the convergence of markets.  That the study of postcolonial literature has not in itself pushed the boundaries, to quote Tariq Ali (1993), of "market realism" - a preference for the elite work in English that is not entirely alien to the suppositions and conventions of Western modernist or postmodernist genre or style - represents an irony of an anti-metropole endeavour located within the corridors of the metropolitan institution.

Where or how do critics of literature position themselves in a project which elevates sociological or economic analysis, or the discourses of philosophy or politics, over and above literary intervention, and in which literature, when it does engage attention, is subjected to issue-driven interpretation.  As E. San Juan Jr phrases it, literature is regarded as "an instance of concrete political practice which reflects the dynamic process of the national democratic revolution in the developing countries" (1998: 254).

This formulation promises little more than a return to earlier economistic base/superstructure rigidity.  To which a critic of the linguistic turn - Homi K. Bhabha, for example - might respond that, no, the literary text, indeed the subject in its subjectivity, is characterised not simply as materialist reflection, but as rhetorical, performative act.  Accordingly, meaning emerges in the textual palimpsest, deconstructively, or against the grain of full intent, in the slippages, in the "in-between", the "liminal", or "Third Space".  It is here that coloniser and colonised interact:   not in the binary oppositions of master and slave, but in more intricate, more devious sparrings.  In the "sly civilities" of the hybridised encounter - we are told, following Heidegger's insight that a boundary is not where matters stop, but where newness is possible - new social and cultural forms of resistance, or even exchange, find their "presencing" (Bhabha 1994).  If the subaltern, as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1985) maintains, cannot speak, she or he can at least mimic the coloniser, ridicule and thus undermine the authoritarian substance and manner.  To which the cynic might retort, or simply confirm the coloniser's view that the colonial babu in his wheedling and winking remains - well! - a babu.

In scintillating verbal display, which is far removed from communication with any subaltern, Bhabha suggests - some might say, imposes - his own alternative totality:  deferrals of ethical anchor, splits of signifier from signified, and plays of difference - we are led to understand - will lead us to a better world.  If San Juan Jr is unambiguous in his commitment to political praxis, Bhabha is less than clear as to the connection between word and deed. Yet, having said this, we recognise in Bhabha's rhetoric of difference a check on forms of domination:  a check on erasures of the local archive within the ‘flow' of globalisation.  It is a flow that presents apparent choice - ten brands of the same product with different labels - in the ‘no-real choice' of what was referred to above as market convergence.

Here is a conundrum.  It is a conundrum that for the last decade or more has characterised post- debate.  Our investment in a common human enterprise is qualified by our investment in the dignity of our different selves.  The conundrum, nonetheless, is more intractable when located in the large categories of conflict-oriented or framework-oriented postcolonial theory than when located in the experiential purchase of literary works, or in the analysis of individual texts, or - dare one say it - in the aesthetic appreciations of a literary turn.

It is widely agreed, for example, that a considerable output of the most exciting contemporary literature emanates from non-metropolitan sources of creativity and concern.  Let me permit Salman Rushdie his colourful response to George Steiner's complaint that literary energy is being generated not in the metropolis, but at the edges of the world:  "What does it matter...?  What is this flat earth on which the good professor lives, with jaded Romans at the centre and frightfully gifted Hottentots at the edges" (Rushdie 1996).  We - that is, we in the academy, who have taken the post- challenge seriously -  no longer think of Achebe or Gordimer or Coetzee as writing, in reaction, back to the centre.  If we are willing to grant Achebe his initial project of re-inserting the African human being in the heart of darkness, then his critical as well as his creative writing - are the two easily separable? - has offered telling adjustments to dominant perspectives on the Western canon, in which the novelist has been always an artist before, as recast by Achebe, a teacher (1988 [1965]).  Is Conrad or Bunyan or Shakespeare unifocally a metropolitan writer?  Is the Third World writer merely the doppelgänger of the metropolitan counterpart?  We may wish to read Toni Morrison as postcolonial, or J.M. Coetzee as both South African and international, or - through his recent work (Coetzee 2005) - as exploratory of the postcolonial as a settler-colony identification:  Canberra, or previously Cape Town, placed somewhere ‘in-between' London and Lagos.

As I have said, the focus in postcolonial literary studies has remained attached to the elite work in new englishes by the emigré or multicultural metropolitan author (the Salman Rushdie or the Zadie Smith).  The oral or indigenous voice, or popular expression on the periphery (African praises, say, or Kenyan market literature), has had limited impact so far on post- debate, where the tendency has been to replace Western canons with Third-World canons (instead of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we have Achebe's Things Fall Apart) or where the tendency has been to re-appraise metropolitan ‘touchstones' through the telescope of alternative modernities (Shakespeare's The Tempest or Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress in the New World).  Such ‘elite' constrictions notwithstanding, a literary influence may be fruitfully pursued. It is an influence that can be identified, more recently, even in critics whose interest is principally philosophical, political or ideological.

Although he retains his Marxist predilection for class analysis in his denigration of postmodern sceptics of truth, unity and progress, for example, Terry Eagleton in After Theory (2003) suggests a consideration of truth categories - virtue, evil, morality, pleasure, death - which have been in short supply in ideological critique, but which constitute the truth of poetry as opposed to the truth of history (to invoke an Aristotelian distinction).  For Robert J.C. Young (2001: 409), to whom I have already referred, literary texts - he names Passage to India, King Solomon's Mines and Kim - are not an expression of higher or more complex truth, but an aspect of discourse no greater in import than the private letter as evidence in a law court as part of legal discourse:  discourse being not the direct or indirect representation or misrepresentation of experience, but a system of statements, or rules, that govern institutional practice.  (In Young's attention the practice, of course, is colonialism.)  Such a line of argument might seem unpropitious of a literary turn;  Young reminds us, nevertheless, that postcolonialism as a spur to thought and activity predates Said, Bhabha and Spivak, the ‘holy trinity' of the northern university.  Rather, the postcolonial has long had important voices on the peripheries;  that, in fact, peripheries may be an inappropriate descriptive term, as perhaps is postcolonial itself, Young preferring tricontinental in its internationalist ambition.  Not only was Gandhi an influential presence - a kind of embodied creative text, to be interpreted in multiple contexts of imaginative and ethical challenge - but it is significant that what shaped those thinkers whose work is synonymous with post- debate - Foucault and Derrida - was their experience in colonial Tunisia and Algeria, respectively.[iv]

Closer to a literary turn, Bart Moore-Gilbert (1997) - like Ato Quayson (2000), another critic who has sustained a literary interest[v] - distinguishes between postcolonial theory and postcolonial practice, and includes as formative influences not only philosophical and political thinkers, but also the ‘first wave' of Caribbean and African writer-critics of the decolonisation years.  We are reminded that Achebe's landmark essay, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" (1988 [1975]), was published three years prior to Said's Orientalism;  that Ngũgĩ's "decolonising the mind" (1981) - the phrase had been coined earlier by Es'kia Mphahlele (1962) in his response Négritude - anticipated the agitation of Spivak, in particular, for curricular reform;  and that both E.K. Brathwaite's theory of "creolisation" (1971) and Wilson Harris's neologism of "the in-between" (1967: 8) (a means to figure a position between cultures) anticipated Bhabha's conception of the Third Space.  Harris well before Bhabha, in fact, had defined "the void" as the element which, as in Bhabha, complicates full translation:  the void prevents cultures or cultural forms, which are being negotiated, from attaining the easy commerce of equivalence or synthesis, Harris notes, while at the same time the void - the apparent paradox is key to Bhabha's hybridity - is a place which allows cultures to mix not by erasing differences, but by "endorsing difference yet creatively undermining biases" (Harris 1992 [1967]: 20).

I mention the insights of so-called Third World literary figures not to score ‘South' points against the North, but to remind us that what we now refer to as the postcolonial is, spatially and temporally, an entanglement of the colony with modernity, in which - as Said (1993) has argued - no cultures are pure and in which the philosophical home may not be the nation but the world.  Not only in Bhabha or in Harris, but in observations dating back to Roman and Christian encounters, we may identify - to return to my earlier point - a post- conundrum:  a narrative of causality suggesting both progress (one stage to the next) and imposition (a dominating story);  or a local story susceptible, also, to its own paradoxes of difference, as both identity-recognition and ethnicity-identification.  It is a conundrum which, in granting respect for ‘my story', may trigger in ‘your story' vicious regional competition, as in the Balkan wars of the 1990s:  why your story and not my story?  Or, whose story has authority?  Or, according to post- ‘dissensus', is cultural understanding or literary history desirable, or even possible?

Given a rhetoric that is able to paralyse claims of rationality or ethical choice, it is not really surprising to note impulsions to greater nuance and complexity in either/or scenarios.  The physical sciences, for example, point out that as in scientific experimentation so in social life, we artificially construct our conjunctures of events.  These hypothetical models chart causality according to provisional patterns while subjecting such patterns - which are, after all, constructed patterns - to ever more challenging observation in the pursuit of truer or, at least more invariant, accounts of reality.  (See Potter and López 2001) Or, to turn to economics, Immanuel Wallerstein's world systems theory (1974;  1991) in its narration of modernity is not as singular as literary critics of Enlightenment tend to find convenient.  While attached to European and now U.S. global expansion, capitalism overlaps differently, at different times and in different spaces, with the intrusions - not simply the passivities - of decolonisation and neocolonialism.  (It is not a new observation that South Africa's development invokes the consideration of colonialism of a special kind.)

Such tensions between global universalism - or a mélange of cultural production in U.S. sweatshops at the edges of the world - and the identity politics of regions, even nations, provoke several essays in the collection, Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Loomba et al 2005).  The conclusion of the editors, in their Introduction, is that in an era of globalisation debate must move beyond the ‘conundrum' - consensus or dissensus - of the past decade, and seek a "new critical language for articulating the linkage between local, lived experience and the broadest structures of global economic and political power" (19).  It is not as Said suggests in what for him is an unusual flourish to popular effect that "stone-throwing Palestinian youths or swaying dancing South African groups or wall-traversing East Germans" (1993: 396) by their actions alone collapsed the relevant tyrannies.  Rather, it is that metanarratives, as Kelwyn Sole (2005) argues in Postcolonial Studies and Beyond, must not be erased, but must be qualified by scrupulous attention to local conditions.  Sole illustrates his point in an analysis of the "quotidian experience" - the everyday, as a category - in contemporary South African poetry, which questions the "pseudo freedoms" bred and licensed by neoliberalism in the new South Africa. 

At the same time, Sole - alert to the danger of racial division - cannot contemplate a future progressive South Africa simply as an accumulation of discrete observations detached from the trace of a trajectory:  a trajectory urging citizens towards a community of awareness.  The concept, community of awareness, is Fanon's (1961):  his synthesis beyond the antithesis of native resistance.  It is quoted approvingly by Said (1993: 262); and it is endorsed by Young in his conclusion as to why, even though he himself prefers the term tricontinental, postcolonialism retains its definitional purpose in globalised times.  Postcolonialism marks the fact that, despite setbacks to decolonisation, human beings require a return to what has come to be known as a radical humanitarian tradition. (See Fanon 1961: 315-6, and Young 2001: 67-8) 

We touch again on the terrain of the literary, where explorations of the subjective and imaginative life should seek the gradations that are too often erased in the abstractions of postcolonial theory.  Sole is unlikely to label himself a postcolonial critic.  His caution bears, perhaps, on Said's observation (1993: 264) outside his flourish about stone-throwing youths and toyi-toying (swaying-singing) crowds: the postcolonial paradigm - the West's turning its gaze on its ex-colonies - is least applicable to the topographies, both imaginative and developmental, of countries with particularly complicated relationships to a colonising/anti-colonising dialectic.  Said's examples are Algeria, Guinea, sections of the Islamic and Arab worlds, and Palestine and South Africa; and at the conference at Wits University (Johannesburg) in 1996 on "Post-Colonial Shakespeares" Jonathan Dollimore sought both precariously and elegantly to tackle a certain hostility among South African participants to a postcolonial discourse:


There was, for example, distrust of ‘metropolitan' theory, including by myself;  a sense that this theory which gestured so much towards difference as a fundamental philosophical premise, disregarded its material realities.  But what struck me, as an outsider, as the most hostile divide of all, was that between a materialist tradition of criticism and subsequent developments conveniently (though again reductively) lumped together as ‘the postmodern'. (1997: 259-60)


How to avoid the either/or dichotomy, or the divide - implicit in northern institutional postcolonialism, despite its best intentions - between a still confident West as the framer of the discourse and the silent, or winking, or rebellious native subjects of the South?  As far as academic enquiry is concerned, the response to the travelling theorist cannot be the indigene who, in the blood and the bones, knows the local story, and Dollimore's conclusion, even as it feels compelled to retain the European thinker as measure, shifts either/or to both/and:


I reconsider the place of pessimism within the political project in the spirit of Gramsci's familiar yet never more apposite remark:  "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will." (1997: 260)


Optimism of the will reinforces a literary turn, even if such a turn refuses to follow David Punter's own imaginative, sometimes quirky attempt in his study Postcolonial Imaginings (2000) to redirect postcolonial theory towards the substance of his subtitle, "Fictions of a New World Order".  Instead of postcolonial criticism's "establishing a ground" - what are the forms of colonialism, what is a comprador formation, etc.? - the question, according to Punter, is how to respond to the pressures under which the postcolonial experience is felt, how the narrative, recursive, struggling forward, burdened by setbacks, emerges in image, in speech, in the shocks of its insights, in the complexity of its human interactions.  It is an imagination which Punter, in his attempt to turn to the literary, can identify only in "melancholy, ruin, loss" (2000: 186):  an imagination (defined by Punter as postcolonial) of violent geographics, displacement, of ghosts in the history house, in which the freight of centuries of colonisation can never be erased.

In the postcolony, however - if South Africa may be designated, tentatively, as a postcolony - the "spectral" (Punter 2002) does not necessarily negate the energies of renewal, even as the in-between space presents an ongoing challenge.  How then may the literary intervene?  According to Wilson Harris


the possibility exists for the literary work to involve us in perspectives on renascence which can bring into play a figurative meaning beyond an apparently real world or prison of history.... I believe a philosophy of history may well be buried in the arts of the imagination. (1970: 8)


Or, more recently, according to Hanif Kureishi,


the only patriotism possible is one that refuses the banality of taking either side, and continues the arduous conversation.  That is why we have literature, the theatre, newspapers - a culture... .(2005)




The essays that follow offer independent contributions to postcolonial debate.  Insights that have been influential in the definition of the field are neither ignored nor permitted to ‘overwrite' the texts of imaginative experience.  Matthew Shum's reading of Thomas Pringle, for example, avoids the theoretical formulations that dominate northern institutional postcolonial study.  Pringle's settler identity is seen to be less than contained by a landscape poem which, in its local place, requires an adjustment of standard European-Romantic categories of tutored and untutored nature.  A close reading is not utilised, in consequence, to entirely deconstructive purposes - to reveal the limits of Pringle's radicalism - as might be the familiar postcolonial manoeuvre.  Instead, the close reading returns value to the poem;  the complexity of settler identity is captured in Pringle's subjective response to the strange, discomfiting experience.

In Sally-Ann Murray's tilling of the suburban garden, or the garden as text, white South Africans emerge neither as "colonists who will" (Memmi's settlers of conservation or conservatism) nor "colonists who won't" (Memmi's settlers of guilty conscience).[vi]  If suburban gardening in its importation of hybrid species reveals by analogy jittery identities, gardening reveals also the pleasurable pursuits of settler belonging.  If indigeneity has not come naturally to ex-Europeans in Africa, neither will these settlers of over one hundred years vanish in any retreat to a mythical motherland:  a motherland now more alien to them than the adopted African soil.  There may be potential, therefore, for the forging of new identities beyond nature or nurture.  What, after all, is nature, what nurture, in a space that since 1652 has experienced translations of Africa and the West?

The anxieties of identity in multiple racial and social contexts are examined, in different ways, by Corinne Sandwith and M.J. Daymond. In a heterogeneous society, class and race identifications raise questions about the authenticity of any discourse: questions that Sandwith pursues in her focus on The Voice (1949 - 52 ), a little-known black "township" broadsheet which included the early contributions of writers such as Es'kia Mphahlele. It is the translatability or untranslatability of cultures[vii] that Daymond pursues in the interstices of written and oral life stories, English or englishes, or tradition and modernity, or women's voices in patriarchal community.  If in Daymond's article the two subjects of their stories - Mpho Nthunya and Agnes Lottering - occupy Bhabha's Third Space of in-betweenness, then there is no certainty of presencing.  When older belief systems encounter Christian teaching in the contact zone, there may be silence, but a silence resonant, paradoxically, of the struggle of incommensurability between contesting worlds. Does academic enquiry probe or respect the othernness?

A scrupulous refusal to inhabit ‘otherness' is a mark of J.M. Coetzee's fiction.  Monica Popescu asks why Coetzee in 1994, amid momentous change in South Africa, set The Master in Petersburg in nineteenth-century Russia.  Her enquiry leads to a category shift from "postcolonial" as vertical-axis consideration of metropolis and colony to "late postcolonialism": a triangulation, or complex interaction, turning away from, but  an analogous placing of, South Africa's transition in a nuanced, global picture.

Such triangulation also informs the remaining contributions. It is Michael Green's concern that J.M. Coetzee's "Lesson", in Elizabeth Costello (2003), on "The Humanities in Africa", glosses stories that in accumulated particularities of time and place may suggest a multifaceted truth of human and spiritual interaction, a reality of Africa and the West.  Sweeping generalisations by the two characters in the "Lesson", whether on the nature of African Christianity or Greek classicism, risk evading the needs of actual people.  Instead of story yielding the truth of the subject in the landscape, story - as so often in postcolonial discussion - may be manipulated into the service of preferred ideologies.  Where does Coetzee, the arch-fictionalist, stand in relation to the characters to whom he gives voice?   The question - an intricate question - is posited by Green through a Coetzean device:  a lecture which, as in Elizabeth Costello's "Lesson", invites the reader to participate in the making of meaning.

The making of meaning, as Ileana Dimitriu points out in Ato Quayson's study, Postcolonialism (2000), shifts from consideration of the postcolonial as a set of conditions out there to the postcolonial as ongoing process:  a coming into being of the new millennium as "a postcolonializing" world (Quayson 2000:8). This suggests increasing migrancy, increasing movements of all kinds across increasingly porous borders, of margins located in centres, and vice versa.  As a spectator of a UEFA football match might observe in the composition of the ‘multi-ethnic' teams, the ramparts of Fortress Europe have already been breached.  Or, more crucially, as a viewer in South Africa of BBC World will see, France in November 2005 has experienced the violence of its failure to understand, creatively, its own postcolonialising "presencing".  It is the metaphor of postcolonialising that summarises Nadine Gordimer's recent critical and creative writing, and Ileana Dimitriu identifies in the diverse landscapes of Gordimer's The Pick-up and Loot neither metropolitan centres nor African nor Asian nor Latin-American, nor indeed East European peripheries,  but multiple margins and centres that are imbued with different degrees of significance.  Cheryl Stobie, for her part, turns Barbara Adair's novel of life in a decadent Tangier to significance in the South Africa of today, in which post-apartheid times have presented the possibilities of challenging new relationships not only across race, but also across gender. Challenges in South Africa, finally, direct Chapman's interview with Robert J.C. Young.

What the contributions have in common is what I have termed a literary turn.  Unlike San Juan Jr, the contributors do not regard the imaginative work as an "instance of concrete political practice reflecting the process of national democratic revolution".  The new South Africa has not complied in predictable ways with the revolutionary vision:  the national democratic movement - if one may still attach the label to the ANC government - has had to adjust its socialist ideals to the complexities of multiple centres and margins within economic and cultural life not only in South Africa, but also in South Africa's relation to Africa and the world.  The contributors might be prepared to agree with Derek Attridge (2004: 126-31) that literature defines its "singularity" in its resistance to the all-encompassing frame or idea;  that literature although a cultural product is rarely self-contained by the culture;  and that whatever its effect or affect on our experience, a literary turn is unlikely either to fast track into power any New Social Movement or to save our souls. 

What literature might achieve is its own apprehension of otherness;  its capacity to offer surprising articulations of, and insights into, the complexity of human potential and conduct.  Despite the utopian pronouncements of many postcolonial projects, the current project heeds Ania Loomba's more realistic purpose:  we academics "should at the very least place our discussions of postcoloniality in the context of our own educational institutions and practices" (1998: 258).  The objective is to stimulate our students, and ourselves, to see afresh, and comparatively, across worlds.  In this, a literary turn may achieve an ethical dimension.





[i]               See Ahmad (1992), San Juan Jr (1998).  Also, Fanon (1961), Ali (1993) and Parry (2004).

[ii]               See Chinweizu (1975).

[iii]              See Young (2001), Lazarus (2004), and Loomba et al (2005).

[iv]              See Young (2001), for chapters on "Gandhi's Counter-modernity", "Foucault in Tunisia" and "Subjectivity in History: Derrida in Algeria".

[v]                For studies that devote greater attention to literary criticism than to theory or political commentary see, also, Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin (1989), Bassnett and Trivedi (1999), Boehmer (1995), Gilroy (1993), Japtok (2003), King et al (1995), Punter (2000) and Walder (1998).

[vi]              See Memmi (1965).

[vii]             See Budick and Iser (1996).




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______.  1988 [1975]. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness."  In: Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays 1965-87. London and Ibadan: Heinemann International: 1-13.

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