David Alderson
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Saturday’s Enlightenment
in End of empire and the English novel since 1945
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This chapter focuses on Ian McEwan's novel, Saturday. Saturday seeks to avoid definitive political commitments, substituting a family crisis and its reconciliation for the consideration of global questions. The point at issue is whether anti-imperialism should embrace a repudiation of 'development' as 'Western' because it is governed by the Enlightenment's supposedly imperialist prescriptions. The chapter considers two novels in which the relations between abstraction and concretion, gender and the body, are especially revealing: The Comfort of Strangers and The Innocent. The Innocent is more typical of McEwan's later, more historically specific work. Insofar as postcolonial theory is a branch of poststructuralism, it treats Marxism merely as discourse, effectively bracketing off its claims to be describing a systemic reality. In 1944, the historian, Karl Polanyi, claimed as virtually inevitable the collapse of the nineteenth century 'idea of a self-adjusting marketimplied a stark utopia.

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