Ecocriticism as a concept first arose in the late 1970s, at meetings of the Western Literature Association. Ecocriticism takes its literary bearings from three major nineteenth-century American writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. This chapter indicates the scope of some of the debates within ecocriticism concerning the crucial matter of the relationship between culture and nature. Perhaps the most fundamental point to make is that ecocritics reject the notion that everything is socially and/or linguistically constructed. A related issue, which is also thrown into relief by ecocriticism, is whether a distinction is deconstructed into self-contradiction by the fact that it is not always absolute and clear-cut. A STOP and THINK section provides the reader with some ‘hands-on’ experience with the subject discussed. The chapter describes some activities of ecocritics and presents Thomas Hardy's poem 'In Time of The Breaking of Nations' as an example of ecocriticism.
The feminist literary criticism of today is the direct product of the 'women's movement' of the 1960s. In feminist criticism in the 1970s the major effort went into exposing what might be called the mechanisms of patriarchy, that is, the cultural 'mind-set' in men and women which perpetuated sexual inequality. This chapter looks at three particular areas on which debates and disagreements have centred on about feminist criticism: the role of theory; the nature of language; and the value or otherwise of psychoanalysis. It includes a STOP and THINK section to help readers ponder over anti-essentialism which has for some years now been a dominant concept in critical theory. The chapter describes some critical activities of feminist critics and presents an example of feminist criticism by taking the account of Wuthering Heights by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, from their book The Madwoman in the Attic.
This chapter presents a flexible but solid definition of the word 'postcolonialism' by placing it in two primary contexts. The first regards the historical experiences of decolonisation that have occurred chiefly in the twentieth century. The second concerns relevant intellectual developments in the latter part of the twentieth century, especially the shift from the study of 'Commonwealth literature' to 'postcolonialism'. Commencing with a brief historical sketch of colonialism and decolonisation, the chapter focuses on important antecedents for postcolonialism such as the growth of the study of Commonwealth literature and the theories of 'colonial discourses'. Three forms of textual analysis engendered by the turn to theory in the 1980s which became popular in the wake of Orientalism are also discussed. A number of critical works that appeared in the twenty first century attempting to guide readers through the fast-developing, and often abstruse, concepts and new vocabularies of postcolonialism are finally covered.
This introduction invites readers look back on their previous training in literary studies. It looks at the assumptions behind traditional literary criticism, or 'liberal humanism' as theorists usually call it. The word 'liberal' in this formulation means not politically radical, and hence generally evasive and non-committal on political issues. 'Humanism' implies something similar; it suggests a range of negative attributes, such as 'non-Marxist' and 'non-feminist', and 'non-theoretical'. The chapter explains that we are looking, in literary theory, for something we can use, not something which will use us. It suggests a useful form of intensive reading, known as 'SQ3R' or 'SQRRR', which breaks down the reading of a difficult chapter or article into five stages, as designated by the letters 'SQRRR'. The stages are: Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. The chapter includes a STOP and THINK section to help readers reflect on the nature of literary education to date.
Beginnings are exciting things, inviting us to explore that which we may not have previously visited; but they also expose us to the unfamiliarity and inevitable disorientation of doing something new. This introduction is an overview of the key themes discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. Beginning Postcolonialism is an attempt to help readers make their own beginnings in one of the most exciting and challenging fields of study that has established itself in recent years. It introduces readers to the various ways they can approach the creative endeavours of those who either come from, or have an ancestral purchase upon, countries with a history of colonialism. The authors also reconsider their approaches to older, more familiar or canonical works that seem to have little to do with the fortunes of British Empire. Readers can build and develop their readings of the range of texts which preoccupy postcolonialism.
This final chapter assists readers in reaching some conclusions about the extent to which 'postcolonialism' is an enabling term. Several of the critiques of postcolonialism given in the chapter confront postcolonialism at its possible limits - limits of temporality, geography such as Commonwealth mappings, history, theory and others. Postcolonialism is a Western practice using Western theories that is performed in 'First World' universities in the main by privileged migrants from the once-colonised nations. The chapter briefly examines Robert J. C. Young's model of the 'tricontinental', which was inspired by the 1966 conference in Havana of the Organisation of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America. It explores whether advent of courses in postcolonial literatures is a part of a containment strategy which pays lip-service to the ideas of postcolonialism while delimiting their impact in a new intellectual 'ghetto'. When globalisation represents imperialism, postcolonialism becomes interested in globalisation.
This chapter presents the story of literary theory by centring it upon a series of ten key events which constitute its public history. The key events are the Indiana University 'Conference on Style', 1958; the Johns Hopkins University international symposium, 1966; the publication of Deconstruction and Criticism, 1979; the MacCabe affair, 1981; and the publication of Eagleton's Literary Theory: An Introduction, 1983. The events also include J. Hillis Miller's MLA presidential address, 1986; the Strathclyde University 'Linguistics of Writing' conference, 1986; the scandal over Paul de Man's wartime writings, 1987-1988; Jean Baudrillard and 'The Gulf War never happened', 1991; and the Sokal affair, 1996. The advantage of doing this is that many of the underlying themes are thereby brought to the fore, so that the trajectory of theory becomes strikingly apparent. The chapter explains the apex of the rise of theory and the beginnings of its decline in the mid-1980s.
The aim of Marxism is to bring about a classless society, based on the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Steiner calls the two main streams of Marxist criticism, of the 1960s and of the 1970s, the Engelsian Marxist criticism, which stresses the necessary freedom of art from direct political determinism. The Leninist Marxist criticism insists on the need for art to be explicitly committed to the political cause of the Left. This chapter outlines the key terms and concepts of the Marxist thinking on literature introduced by Louis Althusser. A STOP and THINK section helps readers ponder over how the nature of literature is influenced by the social and political circumstances in which it is produced. The chapter describes some critical activities of Marxists and presents an example of Marxist criticism, which mainly shows the Marxist critical activities.
This chapter deals with narratology, the study of narrative structures. Narratology is not the reading and interpretation of individual stories, but the attempt to study the nature of 'story' itself, as a concept and as a cultural practice. The distinction between 'story' and 'plot' is fundamental to narratology, but the story of narratology itself is that there are many competing groups. The chapter presents a truncated 'history' of narratology, centred on three main characters, such as Aristotle, Vladimir Propp, and Gerard Genette. It explains that stories are not always presented 'straight'; often writers make use of 'frame narratives', which contain within them 'embedded narratives'. A STOP and THINK section in the chapter helps readers ponder over the striking aspects of narratology. It describes the activities of narratologists and uses Edgar Allan Poe's tale 'The Oval Portrait' to give an impression of how 'joined-up' narratology might look in practice.
This chapter discusses the divisions within the nation such as ethnicity, language, gender and eliteness which threaten the realisation of its progressive ideals. It considers how nationalist representations might contribute to the continued oppression of some groups within the national population who have not experienced liberation after independence. The chapter looks at the relationship between the imagined community of the nation and its internal divisions. It examines Partha Chatterjee's narrative of Indian nationalism in Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse and explores how the contradictions of nationalism impact upon both reading and writing nationalist representations, with specific reference to Chinua Achebe's novel Anthills of the Savannah. STOP and THINK sections review the ideas concerning nationalist representations and pose a series of questions about them to assist the reader in making judgements about the ideas raised within postcolonialism.