By definition, postcolonialism is a period of time after colonialism, and postcolonial literature is typically characterized by its opposition to the colonial. However, some critics have argued that any literature that expresses an opposition to colonialism, even if it is produced during a colonial period, may be defined as postcolonial, primarily due to its oppositional nature. Postcolonial literature often focuses on race relations and the effects of racism and usually indicts white and/or colonial societies. Despite a basic consensus on the general themes of postcolonial writing, however, there is ongoing debate regarding the meaning of postcolonialism. Many critics now propose that the term should be expanded to include the literatures of Canada, the United States, and Australia. In his essay discussing the nature and boundaries of postcolonialism, Simon During argues for a more inclusive definition, calling it “the need, in nations, or groups which have been victims of imperialism to achieve an identity uncontaminated by universalist or Eurocentric concepts or images.” The scale and scope of modern European imperialism, as well as its extraordinarily organized character, including the cultural licensing of racial domination, has sometimes led to the perception of colonization as a modern phenomenon. In fact, many critics propose that modern colonialism was not a discrete occurrence and that an examination of premodern colonial activities will allow for a greater and more complex understanding of modern structures of power and domination, serving to illuminate the operation of older histories in the context of both modern colonialism and contemporary race and global political relations.
Works of literature that are defined as postcolonial often record racism or a history of genocide, including slavery, apartheid, and the mass extinction of peoples, such as the Aborigines in Australia. Critical response to these texts is often seen as an important way to articulate and negotiate communication between writers who define themselves as postcolonial and critics who are not part of that experience. In her introduction to Post-Colonial and African American Women's Writing, published in 2000, Gina Wisker notes that the indictment present in many postcolonial texts tends to produce guilt or feelings of inherited complicity in many readers. Also, although writing about these texts may raise the level of awareness of both the texts and their writers, some postcolonial writers see reflected in this activity an arrogant assumption about the need for noncolonial cultures to recognize postcolonial writers. Similarly, other critics have noted that critical response that focuses entirely on the essential nature of black or Asian writers may also serve to marginalize their writing by supposing their experiences as largely a product of being “other” than European.
Postcolonialism includes a vast array of writers and subjects. In fact, the very different geographical, historical, social, religious, and economic concerns of the different ex-colonies dictate a wide variety in the nature and subject of most postcolonial writing. Wisker has noted in her book that it is even simplistic to theorize that all postcolonial writing is resistance writing. In fact, many postcolonial writers themselves will argue that their countries are still very much colonial countries, both in terms of their values and behaviors, and that these issues are reflected in their work. In her essay on postcolonialism, Deepika Bahri agrees, noting that while the definition of postcolonialism may be fairly boundaried, the actual use of the term is very subjective, allowing for a yoking together of a very diverse range of experiences, cultures, and problems. This diversity of definitions exists, notes Bahri, because the term postcolonialism is used both as a literal description of formerly colonial societies and as a description of global conditions after a period of colonialism. In this regard, according to Bahri, the notion of the “postcolonial” as a literary genre and an academic construct may have meanings that are completely separate from a historical moment or time period.
Some women colonial writers draw a relationship between postcolonialism and feminism. For many of these writers, who live in strong patriarchal cultures, language and the ability to write and communicate represent power. Some of these writers, for example, have noted that since the language of British-ruled colonies is English, literature written in English has often been used to marginalize and constrain female points of view. In the postcolonial period, however, language, and the ability to speak, write, and publish, has become an enabling tool for postcolonial authors.
The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Poetry is the first collection of essays to explore postcolonial poetry through regional, historical, political, formal, textual, gender, and comparative approaches. The essays encompass a broad range of English-speakers from the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands; the former settler colonies, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, especially non-Europeans; Ireland, Britain's oldest colony; and postcolonial Britain itself, particularly black and Asian immigrants and their descendants. The comparative essays analyze poetry from across the postcolonial anglophone world in relation to postcolonialism and modernism, fixed and free forms, experimentation, oral performance and creole languages, protest poetry, the poetic mapping of urban and rural spaces, poetic embodiments of sexuality and gender, poetry and publishing history, and poetry's response to, and reimagining of, globalization. Strengthening the place of poetry in postcolonial studies, this Companion also contributes to the globalization of poetry studies.
- The first collection of essays to focus on postcolonial poetry
- The essays examine both the poetry's formal features and its thematic preoccupations
- The poetry is studied in a global framework, making the book diverse and accessible
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- Date Published: February 2017
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107462878
- length: 306pages
- dimensions: 226 x 150 x 18 mm
- weight: 0.43kg
- availability: In stock
Jahan Ramazani, University of Virginia
Jahan Ramazani is University Professor and Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of five books: Poetry and its Others: News, Prayer, Song, and the Dialogue of Genres (2013); A Transnational Poetics (2009), winner of the 2011 Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association, awarded for the best book in comparative literary history published in the years 2008 to 2010; The Hybrid Muse: Postcolonial Poetry in English (2001); Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney (1994), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Yeats and the Poetry of Death: Elegy, Self-Elegy, and the Sublime (1990). He is a co-editor of the most recent editions of The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (2003) and The Norton Anthology of English Literature (2006, 2012), and an associate editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012). He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, a Rhodes Scholarship, the William Riley Parker Prize of the Modern Language Association, and the Thomas Jefferson Award, the University of Virginia's highest honor. In 2016 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Jahan Ramazani, Laurence Breiner, Oyeniyi Okunoye, Laetitia Zecchini, Rob Wilson, David McCooey, Stephen Collis, Justin Quinn, Gemma Robinson, Robert Stilling, Stephen Burt, Lee M. Jenkins, Janet Neigh, Rajeev S. Patke, Anjali Nerlekar, Harry Garuba, Lyn Innes, Nathan Suhr-Sytsma, Omaar Hena