Postcolonial Poetry in English

By Rajeev S. Patke | Go to book overview

10
After the 'post-'

Post-this, post-that, post-the-other, yet in the end
Not past a thing.

Seamus Heaney, 'On His Work in the English Tongue'

This book has been written under the premise that the currency of 'postcolonial' will meet with a natural datedness when societies shed postcolonial dependency and move closer to their dream of cultural autonomy. For the time being, 'postcolonial' retains contingent utility. It has been used in this book to refer to a dual recognition: as a shifting temporal marker, and as referring to a variety of situations that represent the literary, cultural, and socio-political consequences of colonialism. This dual sense constitutes a provisional field of literary production in which poetry can be analysed for how it shows the development of new creative possibilities and traditions from the demise of Empire.

Writing in European languages outside Europe provides the largest conceivable context within which to study the development of colonial-to-postcolonial writing. The Dutch left their legacy in the East Indies, the Portuguese in Brazil, the Spanish in the Americas and the Philippines, the French in parts of Africa, the Caribbean, and Canada. The linguistic and literary consequences of European colonialism shaped regional literatures. European languages provided the main element of continuity between the colonial past and a postcolonial future, underlining the recognition that 'language is the companion of the empire and a unifying factor of the nation' (Mignolo 2000: 12).

The role of language in British imperialism began with the spread of English as the primary language for literary writing in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. It then extended to the settler regions of North America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand; and to the non-settler regions that came under colonial rule in the

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