Literature and Theatre

Series: Beginnings
Author: John McLeod

This book provides a sense of the continuing debates about postcolonialism while seeking to anchor some of its key themes and vocabularies securely. It takes as its primary focus, the various reading practices which distinguish and characterise much of the field - practices which for the purpose of this book attend chiefly to literary texts, but which can be applied beyond a strictly literary context to other cultural phenomena. The book introduces some major areas of enquiry within postcolonialism, as well as offers concrete examples of various kinds of relevant reading and writing practices. It provides a brief historical sketch of colonialism and decolonisation, providing the intellectual contexts and development of postcolonialism. The book approaches various attitudes towards nationalist representations in literary and other writings during the busy period of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. It then deals with national traditions and national history, and the conflict between national liberation and imperialist domination. Divisions within the nation such as ethnicity, language, gender and eliteness which threaten the realisation of its progressive ideals are discussed, with attention on Partha Chatterjee's narrative of Indian nationalism and Chinua Achebe's novel Anthills of the Savannah. Other discussions include the re-reading of literary 'classics', the re-writing of received literary texts by postcolonial writers, postcolonial feminist criticism, and migration and diaspora in the context of decolonisation. The 'STOP and THINK' section in each chapter identify focal points of debate for readers to pursue critically.

An introduction to literary and cultural theory
Series: Beginnings
Author: Peter Barry

Theory often eclipses the text, just as the moon's shadow obscures the sun in an eclipse, so that the text loses its own voice and begins to voice theory. This book provides summaries or descriptions of a number of important theoretical essays. It commences with an account of the 'liberal humanism' against which all newer critical approaches to literature, broadly speaking, define themselves. The book suggests a useful form of intensive reading, which breaks down the reading of a difficult chapter or article into five stages, as designated by the letters 'SQRRR': Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. It explains the rise of English studies by indicating what higher education was like in England until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The book talks about the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Derrida. It lists some differences and distinctions between structuralism and post-structuralism under the four headings: origins, tone and style, attitude to language, and project. Providing a clear example of deconstructive practice, the book then describes three stages of the deconstructive process: the verbal, the textual, and the linguistic. It includes information on some important characteristics of literary modernism practiced by various writers, psychoanalytic criticism, feminist criticism and queer theory. The book presents an example of Marxist criticism, and discusses the overlap between cultural materialism and new historicism, specific differences between conventional close reading and stylistics and insights on narratology. It covers the story of literary theory through ten key events.

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John McLeod

This chapter deals with migration and diaspora primarily in the context of decolonisation. It focuses on the theme of identity, and defines some conceptual tools, such as 'hybridity', 'borders', 'new ethnicities' and 'cultural diversity', that have been pursued in postcolonial studies. The chapter discusses Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness which deals in the main with the ancestors of the African slaves in the Caribbean, the US and Britain. It analyzes Hanif Kureishi's articulation of his identity crisis and the perilous intermediate position that both migrants and their children are deemed to occupy: living 'in-between' different nations. The chapter critically examines conceptual tools and uses them to help us read Beryl Gilroy's novel of diaspora identities, Boy-Sandwich. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter pose questions concerning diaspora identities to assist the reader in making judgements on his own about the ideas raised within postcolonialism.

in Beginning postcolonialism (second edition)
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Peter Barry

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.

in Beginning theory (fourth edition)
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Peter Barry

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.

in Beginning theory (fourth edition)
John McLeod

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.

in Beginning postcolonialism (second edition)
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Peter Barry

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.

in Beginning theory (fourth edition)
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John McLeod

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.

in Beginning postcolonialism (second edition)
John McLeod

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.

in Beginning postcolonialism (second edition)
Peter Barry

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.

in Beginning theory (fourth edition)