Post-colonial literature

Literatura Inglesa siglo XIX y XX. Realismo inglés. Post-Modernismo. Post-Estructuralismo

  • Enviado por: Ana Martínez chaveli Suárez
  • Idioma: inglés
  • País: España España
  • 16 páginas
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Graduado en Estudios Ingleses: Lengua, Literatura y Cultura
Los objetivos generales de este título responden a la concepción de los estudios de Grado como un ámbito de...
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Inglés Intermediate B2.3
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  • Post-Colonial Literature: it implies that there is a previous Colonial Literature.

  • Colonial Literature: it is written in the colonial countries before they got their independence, countries of the English Empire that inherited the British language and customs: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Sub-Saharan Countries and some Caribbean countries. We will consider Africa and the Caribbean as a region.

Nowadays there are a lot emerging literatures in a lot of Pacific islands that are getting their independence and as they get their independence they start writing literature. The Asiam Rim are a lot of colonial countries (islands) in Asia, they are too many and very small. These countries belonged to the British Empire and in 1930's-60's they got their independence and they got their own identity. Getting independence means that you are conscious, or have a notion of your own identity, different from that of the metropoli. That what we see in literature (the process is reflected in and at the same time impulsed by writing).

The literature written in the colonial period is called Colonial Literature, and when the countries got the independence it is called Post-Colonial Literature. Post-Colonial Literature reflects a way of life and talks about customs, attitudes, religion, and legends. So it inscribes a culture in a frame. That is, an affirmation of their identity. It is called Local Colour; it is mostly a realistic literature that gives an account of the real country, it is supposed to mimic reality. Colonial Literature is written by natives (people who is from that country) that is different from Colonialist Literature.

Colonialist Literature: literature written by British people about those countries embodying the Imperialist point of view. Imperialism is the very root of Colonialism. The assumption of Imperialism, in the case of England, is mainly based in their Industrial Revolution; ”We are progress”, they said. They convinced themselves that they had the right and duty to teach others, expanding their industrial revolution. They meant to civilise the world, they gave civilisation to other countries. Imperialism is “the notion of the authority assumed by a state over another territory”. Marx said it was the globalisation of capitalism. Colonialism is putting that idea onto effect, consolidating imperial power by setting on the territory, exploiting the resources and governing it.

Post-Colonial Literature emerges after independence. We have people who know they are different to England. They have now a distinctive identity. One way of recognising themselves as independent is to analyse colonial period (relationship) with their new perspective, analysing it with their found and independent identity. Also looking at the Empire as a linguistic and literary possibility.

Neo-Colonialism: in spite of independence, post-colonial countries depend, apparently indirectly, on the metropoli to survive, cause the metropoli still have the money and the power in the important world of communication, so those countries are economically a colony. G.Ch. Spivak said: “we live in a post-colonial neo-colonialised world”.

Great Britain went to different countries, during the 18th and 19th centuries, looking for a market. They made different kinds of colonisation:

  • By settlement. Are settled colonies: Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.

  • By invading. Are invaded colonies: Caribbean, African territories and India

  • In the settled colonies, we have British people looking for new territories, to work there, and later they take their families there, they live there as British and at the same time they think they belong to that place.

  • In the invaded colonies British people went there to take advantage of the country and then leave, after having the place under British role and making it work for British sake and profit.

  • In both cases the main instrument of colonisation was the language, English. Because with the language the natives learn not only the language but also the culture it brought. Natives have to learn the language by choice or by force because it was the only way to communicate with the civilised English; the colonised were considered savages, inferior, so they have to learn from the English, never the other way round. Of course, this is not necessary true (India had a much more ancient and wise culture). But England gave the organisation, according to its own ideas. If you, the colony, wanted to have a place in the new society, you had to follow the English way and speak English.

    In the settled colonies, the British didn't care about natives unless they got on the way. The comers were mainly farmers, they moved inland when more people arrived and natives were pushed or killed, it was a slow colonisation, that's why it was a slow genocide.

    In the invaded colonies, on the contrary, the colonisation was quickly, fast. Britain needed people to work in the colonised lands and they took the natives that lived there; as those hands were needed there they stopped slavery, it was abolished. But this situation lead the natives to realised they were slaves or at least second rate citizens in their own country and that the British had the power, when natives realised of that, it meant the beginning of independence. They had a consciousness of identity and it meant the destruction of the Empire. This is moment of abrogation.

    Abrogation: natives decided that they do not want to speak in a foreign language, English in this case, they abrogate English in favour of their own language. It happened mostly in the invaded colonies and later in the settled ones. Writers decided to write in their own language, natives got a notion of themselves, they also noticed that not speaking English was a disadvantage, they realised they won't communicate with a large organisation, they used a minor language. Some authors after abrogating English decided to translate their own works into English. Abrogation was a very important movement and would bring a lot of identity but it was left behind because it was not practical at all. The next step was appropriation.

    Appropriation: it is a conscious use of the language and the culture. As there are always cultural traces, the natives took again English as their language in order to communicate with more people but they did it in a conscious way, it was part of a new identity, natives did it because they wanted to, not because it was imposed on them.

    English, as we know it, it is mainly RP. But through the process of appropriation English become english. This english is as good as English, only it is modified in use, but it is as valid as the other one. This idea is closely connected to post-modernism, it is a way to erase the centre, a way to say `we don't want centre values because everything has a value itself, we have a value, we don't need a model'. It encouraged people to speak english in their way, as they used it instead of the Eurocentric RP usage that had been imposed before. So they introduced some things from their own culture, words or accent and that made every english different one from another.

    In this process of abrogation and appropriation there is a movement from “self” to “other(ness)”; english is describing the self, using english they express themselves. When they use English they had the feeling they are speaking some way with the words of another person.

    D.E. Maxwell divided, in 1965, colonies in invaded colonies and settled colonies and he did it through the study of literature.

    In settled colonies the most important theme is exile, people in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa feel that they are away from home, that is, from Britain, because it was British people who moved there with the families. The wish of going back home is part of what is called “the cultural cringe”; they love their home and consider that everything is better there... The problem is that after some decades away from home these people acquire a new language, english, which is different from the one spoken at home, English. They were considered foreigners (in Britain), these people felt exile in Britain, and therefore they experience that sense of not belonging. This notion of not belonging to your home, your country, creates a crisis of identity, very common in colonial literature. Nowadays that not belonging is more complex by the addition of another component, Multiculturalism, the latest in literary critic. The colonies and all the other countries are a conglomeration

    In invaded colonies people were at home (they are natives), the crisis of identity comes from the language. When they use English they do not find themselves, they are “other”. The problem is when they use their local language, they realise that it is not good enough to describe the new society; they are looking for the right way to express themselves, to use their english.

    In the end all the colonies came to the same problem, the post-colonial period. Salman Rusdy call these people, those who don't know where they belong to, hypen people (Afro-American, Indi-Indian).

    Palimpsest: it is something that comes from that process; at first colonisers killed, enslaved or forgot natives, so they became invisible. They were the “other” in their own land. This changed in the last 20 years, natives got their identity. Australia, in the 1960's, mean while, aboriginal were excluded, but in the 70's they emerged through their own Australian culture, they had something to say. But contemporary native cultures called Palimpsest Cultures, because they have part of their own culture together with the traces of the colonisers' culture left in them.

    Discourse: we talk about a language that is clearly defined, it speech and context. It's one of the clearest manifestations of what we think. Every time we say something we are trying to communicate, it is a will to dialogue. When the discourse becomes literal it is inscribed in words and to make it literary the writer uses tropes.

    Críticos destacados del S.XX

    • F. Saussure

    • En 1915 surge el Formalismo Ruso, lleva implícito el realismo: determina un sitio para cada cosa y cada cosa en su sitio.

    • En los años 20 surge la Escuela de Praga: empieza a adentrarse en la literatura aplicando el formalismo ruso.

    • En los años 30 surge la Crítica Marxista: el arte debe tener una función social. Esta Escuela persiste hasta el día de hoy, con exponentes como Terry Eapleton, anterior a este fue Sir Raymond Williams que alcanzó gran reconocimiento durante los 40, 50 y 60...

    • Tras la 2ª Guerra Mundial, el marxismo empieza a mostrar grietas (se desencadenan los genocidios de Stalin...). Sin embargo, en Inglaterra la llegada de los laboristas al poder, la mejora de la enseñanza accesible a más gente lleva a la aparición de una literatura escrita por gente procedente de la clase trabajadora.

    • En los años 50-60, nace el Formalismo-Estructural. Recogiendo ideas anteriores el estructuralismo define que cada cosa tiene una estructura predeterminada, que ha de respetarse. De ahí el interés por la búsqueda de los universales, y por los trabajos de Morfología (estudio de la estructura para hallar los constituyentes de lo universal). Así Vladimir Propp, en Morfología del cuento (20's) hace una recopilación de cuentos rusos y tras un análisis llega a una fórmula básica que estructura todos esos cuentos. De todo ello surge la Narratología.

    • Narratología: es la ciencia que desarrolla el formalismo en las obras literarias, es el estudio de la forma de la obra literaria (una obra debe tener unos personajes y una duración concreta).

    • En los años 60 hay problemas históricos y sociales, y empiezan a ponerse en tela de juicio los patrones del formalismo, surge el Post-Estruturalismo que se basa en estructuras abiertas, no en las cerradas como antes. La negación de la existencia de estructuras, ya que estas eran abiertas y por lo tanto perdían su condición de estructuras dio lugar a al Post-Modernismo, y dentro de este surge la Deconstrucción.

    • Deconstrucción: (que no implica únicamente la destrucción de lo anterior sino también la reconstrucción sobre las cenizas. J. Derrida dice que todo texto tiene una fisura, fisure, que nos permite adentrarnos en él y hacer una relectura) el ataque a los patrones, a los modelos, al centro del poder anterior, los destruye. Y en esta deconstrucción encontramos el New Historicism.

    • New Historicism: una vez que se deshace el centro de poder se dan nuevas posibilidades al texto histórico, se ponía en duda la veracidad de algunos textos históricos y permitía ver la historia desde diversos puntos de vista para así conocer su veracidad. El New Historicism tiene como crítico primordial a S., Greenblatt que realizó una relectura de la historia renacentista, teniendo en cuenta no sólo lo que se contaba sino también lo que se podía estar omitiendo. El New Historicism cedió ante el Multiculturalismo de los años 80-90.

    Modernismo: finales del s.XIX Post-Modernismo: 1970

    • En el s.XIX se establecieron unos esquemas estrictos que debían ser seguidos en la literatura. Un Realismo encorsetado en esas estructuras domina el siglo.

    • Realismo: la literatura que se escribe debe ser verdad, en el s.XIX no se permite una escritura ambigua, con dobles significados.

    Con el cambio de siglo (1900-1930), se pasa a una literatura más intelectual e imaginativa, más libre, que rompe con lo anterior. Es el Modernismo. Se fuerzan las posibilidades de las palabras y las estructuras, se introduce el sentimiento, el individuo, las diferentes acepciones de las palabras, se retuerce el lenguaje, se le exprime para dar diferentes significados... el Modernismo se codifica a través de la múltiple significación que pueden tener las palabras. La literatura puede responder a los sentidos y a los sentimientos de la vida. Empieza a cobrar importancia el estilo y lo que quiere decir cada autor. El Modernismo rompe con el Realismo previo.

    Ahora bien, esto sucede en el oeste de Europa. En la Europa oriental se lleva a cabo el proceso contrario, un formalismo brutal (Escuela de Praga, Formalismo Ruso), mientras occidente descubre con Freud el mundo del subconsciente, el profundo abismo del ser individual. También aparece el interés por el pasado (compartido por las dos Europas) como referente del futuro, llevando al descubrimiento de la Ethnology and Ethnography (autores como Margaret Mead, Le. Staruss, S. Weston), que con el tiempo abriría la puerta a la ciencia-ficción.

    • Ethnology/Ethnography: se estudian pueblos que vivían aislados, se descubren nuevas lenguas que proporcionan un gran avance en la lingüística.

    Todo esto irá poco a poco dando forma al Post-Modernismo, que evolucionará en el periodo de entreguerras (30).

    Ya por entonces M. Bahjhtin ha escrito su tesis (20) sobre Dostoyesky, defendiendo la irrealidad del realismo, con su narrador omnisciente y omnipotente: tal narrador introduce un punto de vista imposible y por lo tanto irreal. Dice que la novela realista no existe cuando ponemos a un autor que entra dentro de los personajes estamos recibiendo un punto de vista que no es real, es una manipulación de la literatura. Este fue un gesto muy valiente en una época y lugar en que el realismo era casi sagrado; le costó caro, y durante años se mantuvo tapada su demostración de la no-existencia de del realismo. En los años 30 G. Lucais hace una historia basada en el realismo, la novela histórica.

    A finales de los 60, se llega, por desgaste, al Post-Modernismo/Post-Estructuralismo. Jean François Lyotard describe el cambio histórico de esta época, el es la cabeza visible de esta culminación del proceso. Frases como “la imaginación al poder”, como sustitución del centro de poder establecido, o mejor dicho, como disolución, destrucción del centro. Es una ruptura total del canon, del centro y del circulo que lo rodea, que en ese momento deja de existir. Todo vale, cada individuo, cada artista, es un centro de poder. Se rompe el centro de poder, todo es válido, todo se puede decir, el poder pasa a la persona que puede producir y decir. Se pierde la noción de realismo y se deshace la estructura. La deconstrucción lleva implícita una reconstrucción para encontrar cosas nuevas. J.Derrida: habla de que todos los textos tienen un fisure, fisura, y a través de esta fisura se puede reconstruir. B.S.Johnson, en estos años 60, rompe la forma de la novela, al igual que los latinoamericanos, como Cortazar, revolucionaron las formas y los contenidos.

    En los años30, Karl Jung unifica las ideas psicológicas de Freud con los mitos, acercando o relacionando el subconsciente individual con el colectivo por medio de las leyendas y los mitos, poso de unos miedos comunes y ancestrales que afectan también nuestro comportamiento. Otro autor que sigue con el desarrollo de las teorías psicológicas es J. Lacan (psicólogo) que dijo que el silencio está lleno de voces. Es decir, en literatura significa que los silencios y las ausencias forman parte del texto y son constituyentes. Así, la no aparición de del aborigen en la 1ª literatura australiana nos habla de su situación, de su invisibilidad en la cultura de los colonos. Ralph Ellison escribió en los 60s The Invisible Man, es la historia de un hombre joven negro en Nueva York. Obra con la que postula el concepto de invisibility que se aplicará a los nativos de las colonias que pasarán desapercibidos en la literatura, no se les ve de manera individual sino como raza, que en el caso de los negros y los nativos, se consideraba peligrosa.

    Post-Modernism or Post-Structuralism.

    The main idea in Post-Modernism is that critics are deconstructing the central power in order to reconstruct. Out of one, by deconstruction, we get a lot of possibilities. The central power could be the Pope, the King... somebody ordering from the centre of power. Post-Modernism deconstruct the “I say you should do...”, they do away patriarchal structure; that has been working through the previous years.

    Anthropological dimension

    Political dimension

    Epistemological dimension




    Male, white, European

    Documents, facts

    Truth, tradition


    Point of view; Lacan, Bakhtin

    Archaeology; Foucault

    Deconstruction; Derrida


    Historiographic metafiction

    Multiculturalism, pluralism

    When “I”, in the anthropological dimension, talks, it wants to give a meaning. The ”I” is using words in order to make some meaning, politics, history, and culture. History takes all the possibilities of culture, it is the political dimension.

    When we consider the subject (“I”), it is a white male voice. This is the first thing that deconstruction is going to subvert (change), we get male and female voices, there is no difference in gender and it also gives the possibility of a lot of skin colours and cultures. Because of subvert the point of view in literature changes. The analysis of the point of view is carried out by Lacan, he was the one that gave to absence and also silences. Bakhtin talked not only about realism, but also about polyphony in literature, many voices and also the silent voices. The main literature result is auto/biography, it means that we are talking about biography and also about autobiography and also it shows that both belong to the same style and that they are very difficult to separate.

    • Self-consciousness: you know that you are writing fiction and you tell the reader that you know you are writing fiction.

    The official history is written by white men, colonial history was written by British. They wrote it with documents and those documents were written about facts of life. Post-Colonial countries had nothing written by them and they wanted to write their own history. If we subvert it, we have to go back and reread that history with archaeology, to look back and look for more historical items. Foucault was the most important critic, psychologist, sociologist, of the century, he rewrote about many cultural things, he says how to look back at things with a different point of view, he changed the consideration of art. He talks about the archaeological knowledge: to go back in history and look at other things with another point of view. The history's writers, the ones that wrote history through the documents, did not analyse the facts.

    F. Jameson: he talks about the hegemonic discourse, the discourse of power. He defines it from a post-modern perspective: In the hegemonic discourse there is a dialogical intention, who is the other side? The hegemony should talk to someone else, that one is the suppressed discourse, the voices that do not talk.

    The literature result of history is historiographic metafiction. This name was stamped by Linda Hutcheon, she did the best definition of post-modernism. By that term she means: the writer of history knows he is writing fiction, it is based on facts but it is fiction, as it is fiction it is graphic, it is written, and it goes beyond fiction (meta). It talks about what might have happened, metafiction has a will to truth. Historiographic metaficton is, nowadays, post-colonial literature, it is literature; it wants to reconstruct a history, to give an identity to those post-colonial countries.

    • Epistemology: they want to say truth; the first characteristic of history, officially, is truth. When truth is difficult to defend, we get tradition. History wants to maintain truth and tradition. By subvert we get deconstruction. Derrida proved that truth is only somebody's truth. Derrida also stamped the term differance. The importance of meaning is not in the difference but in the reasons why they are different. To make a difference you have to compare two or more things, that process is differance.

    R.Riffaterre: he was a French critic, he talks about the Fictional Truth, it is an oxymoron (contradiction). He takes truth as a fiction that could be changed

    We get multiculturalism and pluralism in history.

    African Criticism.

    As such, it stands with the concept of Négirtude that comes from the 1930's, in the period between wars. Before the I World War all the natives remained in their countries and after it, either because they came to Europe to fight or because they discovered the advantages of living in Europe (find a job, study...), begin to be a significant presence in the Old Continent, mainly in Britain and France.

    Négritude comes from the assertion with pride by those natives of their difference, of their négritude (culture, etc.). They got together to try to be proud of all the qualities of black people. They did not bend with the white Europeans. Being so different, instead of trying to bridge the gap, they chose the assertion of their different identity. Even though, it ain't easy, they are in Europe, they are a minority. Furthermore, European mind is based in dichotomy; for Europeans white is power, pride, culture, philosophy... the best. If white is supremacy, black is dichotomically defined as the opposed, the negative. So négritude crashes against European white thought, that is why the assertion of négritude ain't so easy.

    All through out the 30's and 40's Africans in Europe are fighting to establish the concept of négritude but they did not succeeded. The II World War is going to mark the end of colonialism as such. Europe is too occupied to care about colonies and colonies lost faith in Britain. During the II World War and after the war most colonies got independent. African people went to Britain for economical reasons but now they went as independent people, nevertheless they are black and different, the concept of negritude persists, all black are Africans and all Africans are the same, they are like savages.

    Wole Soyinka: (Nobel Prize) he went to England to study, he is a Nigerian play-writer, he is a political thinker; he says, talking about négritude: “a tiger does not proclaim his négritude”. They are black and that is all, if you have to redefine black you are the inferior side, you do not need to show it to anyone, you do not have to justify yourself, to do that is to establish a relation of inferiority

    Malcom X: (USA) he was a political activist, he takes up the idea of Négritude but he takes it to the extreme, we are black, we are important and we will show them. Malcon X calls his ideology Pan-Africanism, he defended the idea of brotherhood in the Diaspora: “it does not matter where you are from if you are African you are my brother”. All the Africans are brothers even if they are out of Africa. His slogan was “black is beautiful”. It was a violent movement. The good thing of this is that it gave people self-steam to fight for their rights, even though the movement itself failed this idea persisted.

    These things are still in the period between the 40's and the end of the 50's. The black panthers, a violent movement of the 50's-60's, followed the idea of Malcom X.

    Luther King: already in the 60's, leadered a pacific black movement. It's funny, but violent movements began in the northern states, while in the south, where the situation was worst, we find the roots of pacific black movement.

    1965-67: we have a new name coming out in African Criticism, Chinua Achebe (Kenya), he is going to start from négritude and Pan-Africanism and he is going to change it to African. What means to be African? “Fundamentally, that we are not concerned with individualism, European philosophy is always preoccupied for the individual; that is very dangerous for us, black people, because African people think in terms of collectivity”. Africans never talk about nuclear family, but about “my family”, talking about the whole family and the family be so extended that can be a political unit, they help each other as if they were close as a nuclear family in Europe. “We should remember we are different and our culture is as good as European if not better”. Let's analyse the writer in Europe and the writer in Africa; the African writer has a social role, African literature is in symbiosis with the society that produces it. One of the things that African culture is going to import from Europe is the social novel, they tend to talk about heroes, individual people

    Curiously, both authors, Soyinka and Achebe, African authors, talked about Africa and the importance of being African and the importance of African culture, but they never went back to Africa so they are accused by some African critics of this. But the fact is that those critical authors that have gone back to Africa were put in jail or deemed to death (S. Biko, Ken Saro Wiwa). Paradoxically, the only way to write African criticism is being out of Africa.

    Anyway, in the 60's, as a result of all this movements, the term Orature (oral literature) was born to put it in the same level as literature. Oral literature also responds to its own form and tradition, there are many different forms of oral literature. While Achebe was writing about this, Soyinka talks about Neo-Tarzanism, he was referring to the nostalgia for Africa, to the constant looking back to it, (nostalgia nationalism or cultural exclusivism). It is referring to ideas such as black is beautiful, why only black? Why that cultural exclusivism? Following that path of thought he attacks abrogation and defends the use of English to express their ideas; he also answers back to Achebe: why should we circumscribe our writing only to social literature? (Neo-Tarzanism means going back to the trees)

    Another great figure appears: James Ngugi. He agrees with Soyinka but he reminds all the problems of Africans and the Diaspora that should always be present and they had became invisible. Writers should make people aware of the problems: “the text is the site of the political activity”. He also talks about the decolonization of the mind: “if we do not decolonise the minds, it is not very important whether we decolonise the country or not”. In talking about this he introduces the idea of individuality. One of the traces left by colonialism is the notion of “I”, of individuality; we have to free the individual, we have to have self-steam and be proud of our identity. He is proclaiming individualism. Going on with this, from the 80's onwards he will renounced to his English name (James) and will publish under the name of Ngugi wa Thiongo, asserting his African personality.

    In 1953 the “Bontoo Education Act” (a law) is going to be very important in Africa because it took the local culture and language to the schools.

    The African writers have some repeated preoccupations or themes:

    • decolonisation

    • how to be an African writer (modern one) without loosing your African roots

    • choice of language: their own language or English

    • Colonial discourse: Malcom Bradbury, in Rates of Exchange, deals with the concept of discourse, following Foucault. He articulates this idea in a fictional work.

    Edward Said's Orientalism. A key word in post-colonial criticism. Said, himself a man of different roots, multicultural, says in this book that Western World invents Eastern World, seeing only what they (we) want to see, without giving the Eastern people the chance of explaining themselves. There is interest but in that fictional Orientalism, not in the real voices and events. There is no interest in the real culture, but in a manipulated version of that culture. In doing so, Said is the first critic in articulating this idea and that became an unavoidable point of reference.

    • Deconstruction: fundamental key concept in all the Post-colonial theory. Its application opens the door to different perspectives, meanings, voices... Structuralism left aside everything that was not included in the rule, this muted minorities; Derrida notices this and begin the process of deconstruction.

    • Différance: meaning is absent; the meaning of, for instance, a work, is not to be categorically asserted, but proposed and argumented, because it may have different interpretations, different readings... Meaning is not in the work (or word) itself, but has to be found, discussed, opened to different interpretations.

    (Booker Prize: premio anual a la mejor novela en lengua inglesa. Esto implica que da cabida a literatura post-colonial, dando a conocer trabajos australianos, indios...: El Dios de las Pequeñas Cosas. Este año el premio ha recaído en el sudafricano blanco J.M.Coetzee, por Disgrace. Short List , lista de finalistas: este año, Anita Desai y Ahdaf Soueif)

    The Idea of History

    “I narrate the history”: Idea of patriarchism.

    Before history, in oral cultures, storytellers related things with common day life. Before history, we find myth, a way of explaining everyday life, the present moment. Myth is much common and much important in post-colonial countries (since they have a short history). Both, history and myth depend on the time (chronology) and voice.

    Myth is connected with rite and images.

    Myth Rite Image

    First step: a recurrent image, for instance, the sun raising and setting. A recurrent image is established by a given cycle; but the first time we see it, we do not know if it will raise again, only by the repetition of that cycle, when the recurrence is established, we are ready to reach the second step.

    Second step: rite, an action performed related to that image, in order to keep that cycle working. As soon as you act, you are articulating myth.

    Image Rite Myth

    Recurrent Action Word

    So myth is the expanding of the rite, that is the explanation (action) related to the image. Myth is articulated verbally, is the basic believes and customs of a community, a group, a society. So, in post-colonial countries we do not part of the basis of history, but we take myth as a base. Also taboos, etc, are parts of the myth. They contribute to the wealthfare of the community India: las vacas son sagradas, dan alimento regular (leche), que no debe sacrificarse por la carne; así pues, practical bases).

    But the recovering of the myth is different. Establishing time, for instance, is difficult; the voice is easier to recover (many myths include genealogies...), but anyway, when trying to recover the myth we usually move into fiction.

    Voice gives place (or leads to) historiographic metafiction. Because it meant to be historical, it is historical in some way, referring to names, families... that really existed. But the events... are diffused, you have to reconstruct them. That is what happens when we write a historical novel, we relate an invented or supposed action to a context in which some people existed (for instance, if we write about Covadonga, talking about Pelayo)

    George Bowering: Reconstruct the life of Vancouver, founder of the city; this is metafiction, he (Bowering) was not there, he may have some letters and testimonies, but there are not real written documents telling what really happened.

    So historiographic metaphiction tries to go beyond myth into history.

    Archaeological Knowledge is all what Bowering had he went to the place and recovered rests of what happened. This is what we do to build up historiographic metafiction. That is why also space is important, geography helps us a great deal. That is why writers decided geography, space, is fundamental in post-colonial literature.

    Paul Carter (Australian) redefines the concept of history in the Road of Botomy Bag: “what is history for Europe cannot be history for Australia”. So that history is also defined by space: Spatial History not based in documents, but in the reading of the space, and the visibility/invisibility of what the writer sees. The only possibility for post-colonial countries to recover the sense of history is to recover the sense of space. “Imperial history studies the events only in time in chronology, because they need to establish order from chaos, (establishing a chronological order) but also to legitimate their history, to legitimate themselves, to show that it was the normal development of events (so, justifying colonisation); so to justify things they manipulated history pretending to show facts. But we have only one fact: the place, the landscape. We must “walk” the fact, turn to it and interpreted it”.

    Besides space, we have also some written documents: letters, diaries, journals... That may help us to reconstruct some stage of the history of post-colonial countries (Empire, colonial time). So, Spatial History is based in spatial history and geography, and the consequence is the written word.

    Australian Aborigines had and have as a very important feature of their culture the idea and of walking; they did it barefoot, and it was said they could read with the sales of their feet. They were in contact with the earth; beside, they walked here and there, and so they had a great knowledge and wide sense of space. The landscape, the earth, was sacred for them. This is a good example of why the concept of spatial history has been developed in post-colonial critic.

    All these concepts (myth, rite...) are very important in post-colonial literature, because the contemporanean writers are quite near to them, we are talking about things that were up-to-day for the fathers or grandparents of these writers.

    Already in Freud we find these ideas: the importance of myths, rites, totems, taboos... Karl Jung would develop the ideas of his master, and his contribution is more important even, mixing Freud's ideas with knowledge coming from ethnography, etc... As regards bibliography, we would better turn to the Canadian critic Northrop Frye, who in Four Essays (published in the 50's) takes the ideas of Jung and applies them to English (not post-colonial) literature. It is translated into Spanish, in Gredos' edition (Cuatro Ensayos). To find aclaration of those terms (myth, rite...), we may also go to authors such as S.Weston, Margaret Mead... (Anthropologists... Other author of this kind is Marin Harris, though he is quite elemental, basic). But in post-modern critic, we find the author that comprises and defines these concepts: Roland Barthes, who does not talk about mythology but mythologies. He says the myth is a social construction .his book, Mythologies, is a main work on the subject. A light version could be Umberto Eco's Apocalipticos Integrados en la Cultura de Masas, following Barthes' ideas. Another book of this author is Opera Abierta, also published as Opera Aperta. Another important name, Mircea Eliade (anthropologist, psychologist...), she takes all this theories and centre herself in the idea of Belief, “el hombre piensa, pero también cree, ambas cosas le diferencian de los animales”. The Collective Ancestor of Jung, the ancestral fears of the man, are fighted with myths, believes...

    Myth Rite Image

    Word Action


    But notice the story has always pretension of truth, it is supposed to be truth. And it is not told as a tale but as a real explanation.

    An action can only be understood within a mythological context, a mass, for instance, is a Catholic rite).

    The image is not an isolated one, but a recurrent image. Images are our first contact with the world around us. According to what we see, observing that recurrent image, we developed an action, a rite, according to a theory we build to explain that recurrent image.

    They are so intermingled that, myth cannot be understood without rite and image, etc. They all conform the mythological world.

    As every myth and rite come from an image, they can be a starting point to going back in time, to reconstruct history, from myth to the facts (images), from the transcendental to the science.

    Robert Kroestsch (Canadian): el colonizador, como cree que descubrió el país se cree con derecho a definir lo que descubre; “the colonisers map the country giving names to things and places as if they were proprietors labelling, naming their properties”. This is clearly an application of invisibility (colonisers cannot see it was there before they arrive, and that things had a name already; the country was defined by natives)

    Kroetsch: mapping, naming finding, inventing

    As the colony was already defined, what colonisers did is not defining, but inventing, creating an invented version of the country, inscribing it in their history. That why he (kroetsch) says post-colonial have to unmapped, unnamed and undefined their countries, and so re-writing the history of their countries, starting from a pre-colonial stage. In some way, he agrees with Paul Carter's vision of history.

    Kroetsch is from Alberta (wide prairies of west-Canada). For the English it was just a great blank in the map, a dead space. The interesting things for them were just in the east. But kroetsch says it was because they have not the right perspective; he, as inhabitant of the place, can see things that the colonisers could not see, and in his novel Badlands develops this idea, going from the world that the colonisers saw in the place to a world full of things, of life, of interesting history...


    Para empezar deberíamos definir el concepto de cultura. Esto es prácticamente imposible, una afirmación posible es la definición de mi cultura por contraste con aquella que la comparten y quienes no la comparten. Tyler definió la cultura de un modo global, generalizador, relacionando cultura y civilización.

  • Salman Rushdie, sin embargo, huye de esta globalización y habla de subculturas agrupando agente con relación a intereses o visiones comunes (jugadores de dardos, etc...). esta idea de cultura es discutible , pero apunta una realidad de la cultura: no es algo homogéneo, presenta fisuras (no todos los españoles somos iguales, ni todos los asturianos...)

  • Relacionar con WASP (White AngloSaxon Protestant: a patriarcal and exclusiviser vision of, for instance, North American culture)

  • Muchos países post-coloniales se definen así mismos como multiculturales. Ello no implica la mezcla, la tolerancia... ni lo contrario. Simplemente, la presencia de culturas diversas, su coexistencia. El entendimiento nos llevaría a la idea de interculturalidad.

  • Ahora bien, el Multiculturalismo (idea desarrollada fundamentalmente a partir de los 70's) tiene influencia en la política. Al hablar de un país multicultural, hablamos de una política multiculturalista.

    N. América: Melting Pot (it is supposed to include the idea of interculturalism, that is, assimilation of cultures)

    Canada: Mosaic (integration: everything has a place, but there is no melting)

    Later other countries, India and Australia (...), would enter this game, developing their own sense and political options of multiculturalism.

    Two concepts: -Fragmentation: loose of an unitarian idea of culture, of identity

    -Displacement: related to fragmentation

    4. Multiculturalism vs. Interculturalism

    6. Idea of tolerance and its disadvantages

    7. Taylor (not the one of the quotation 6, but the 7) prefers the idea of recognition, politics of recognition. Related to this, he talks of other politics. Politics of recognition:

    - politics of dignity: we all, as humans, share same rights

    - politics of difference (the problem of abrogation, for example): but that dignity may break the idea of dignity.

    All this can be summarised as:” todos iguales, todos diferentes”.

    Of course all this ideas are reflected in Post-colonial Literature. Think, for example, in the idea of African Neo-Tarzanism (desire of reconstruction of the stage previous to colonisation, a wish to go back to a supposed moment of cultural unity), abrogation...

    Also implies the idea we saw in 7, a public sphere (adaptation or integration to the culture, language, etc you find when you emigrate to another country) and a private sphere (conservation of your own culture, language...). See the example of authors in N.America, Africans in Europe. This leads to the creation of the ghettos, cultural ghettos.

    Bahbha: hybridism vs. Mimicry.

    All those ideas of kroetsch (unnaming...) are put into practice in literature by returning to nature, going into wilderness, a way to find your own country. Why? Because nature is an unlanguage (unnaming, uninvented)

    Margaret Atwood's Surfacing ('62) is an outstanding example. A Canadian woman feels her country is being quickly absorbed by USA; to escape this she goes into wilderness, and by doing this, by going deep into nature (surfacing nature) she finds her country. At a given moment she dives into a lake (water- purifies), so she is clean and finds her culture, her history. She had written previously Survival (a collection of English colonial writings(?))

    “To go bush” (also “to go Indian” in the States) = to go to nature, survive in it, come to terms with it and so hear its voice, and so the voice of history. Rudy Wiebe (Canadian): “where's the voice coming from?” (a short story). By going “to bush” you mix past (history not written) and present. At least this is the post-colonial ideal.

    Anyway, all this is coping with the past. The next step is to face present. Here multiculturalism comes to the stage. Obviously, nowadays in post-colonial countries there are different cultures.

    If going “to bush” you went into the past and so you could understand the present from a base of your own, multiculturalism complicates the present. Different cultures, coming from different places with different histories, meet in a country. But they cannot go back to their own land, cannot find their past, they cannot go back because then they would be foreigners in their own country.

    To go bush


    Past nature Present


    Brian Castro, an Australian born Chinese, wrote Birds of Passage, a book that expresses his own situation. Saying his name, everyone thinks he is foreigner, Spanish or something, though he feels Australian.

    Passing Birds

    Birds of Passage

    Rites of Passage (rites of initiation)



    The tittle plays with a double meaning, Rites of Passage always involve loneliness (find yourself, prove you can survive) and pain.

    The main character is an adolescent who feels lost, not only in age but also because he is adopted. He is Chinese, but his parents are white. He does not feel home at home. He cannot go back to his pat physically (to China, nature). How does he find his history?, he is given a mirror (symbolic) that belong to his grandparents. He sees himself in the mirror, but then it falls and breaks into pieces. He sees a lot of broken images, reflection of himself, that means a breaking out of identity, multitude of identity. He sees his mouth, eyes (eye in post-colonial literature always symbolises “I”). Later on, in cardboard he finds a manuscript. It is in Chinese, but he feels it is the clue. So it means: if you cannot go to the bush, try and find traces of your past, history and identity in your present.

    (see photocopy: “introduction to Metahistory”)

    Edward Said: author of Orientalism. In that work he expresses the idea that the western people invented the east. Nobody had thought of that before, none had seen things from that perspective. By inventing the east, we also created the other; that is, someone inferior, submitted to us. So, in those descriptions of the east are “changed”, affected, inscribed in a hegemonic language. A “European point of view” that cannot lead to a real knowledge of what they pretended to describe. Said holds this idea in Foucault's idea of discourse.

    Following this path of thought, a discourse can only be understood within a given context and the only way of answering a discourse is within that given context. So, Orientalism will answer back, explain itself by the non-discursive parts of the hegemonic discourse, that is, what is not said in that discourse. So the real east remains invisible in the hegemonic discourse. It is through that non- discursive blank that the voice of the east can be heard and become visible.

    What he does in Orientalism is to show the great complexity of the east. As we perceive the complexity of Europe, he wants us to see the complexity of the east, not a single culture, climate, customs...

    “Will to...” (based in the Will to Power that Nietsche attributed to every man: voluntad de, deseo de) : Said says post-colonial countries avoid, the Enlightenment as something bad, negative (?), the basis of western thought and hegemonic discourse.

    “Otherness” (this is what the hegemonic discourse creates): we make the “other” some kind of scope-goat. It is defined as the opposite of us, defined related to us, taking us as a reference. And of course we are the best, the good ones.


    Subject as main base of her ideas.

    Subject as subaltern (sujeto postcolonial, el que realmente nos interesa en crítica postcolonial)

    Among her influences are: Antonio

    Gramsci; he defined subaltern as someone who has not conscience of class, who has no conscience of his position as a class and of his capacity to ask for his rights. That is where Spivak takes it.

    They (subalterns) lack discourse, since they have not conscience to be in a context. That's why when they become despair by the situation, they do not use (recurrent) the discourse, they make a revolution.