The Colonial Rise of the Novel

The Colonial Rise of the Novel

The Colonial Rise of the Novel

The Colonial Rise of the Novel


In this challening book, Firdous Azim, provides a feminist critique of orthodox accounts of the `rise of the novel' and exposes the underlying orientalist assumptions of the early English novel. Whereas previous studies have emphasized the universality of the coherent and consistent subject which found expression in the novels of the eighteenth century, Azim demonstrtes how certain categories: women and people of colour, were silenced and excluded. The Colonial Rise of the Novel makes an important and provocative contribution to post-colonial and feminist criticism. It will be essential reading for all teachers and students of English literature, women's studies, and post-colonial criticism.


To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture.

(Franz Fanon, 1967, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 38)

This book tries to grapple with some of the issues that face a teacher of English in a post-colonial nation. A teacher of English in Bangladesh has to consider not only its status as a language of colonisation and imperialism, but also the somewhat anomalous position that English occupies in a state based on a notion of linguistic nationalism. The relationship between language and identity, in such a historical conjuncture and context, is mediated and refracted by many elements.

The importance of English is felt at many levels in Bangladesh, and can, in no way, be seen as confined to the English departments at universities and institutes of higher education. The status of English is a topic of debate in the popular media, in newspapers and on television and radio. Private English language schools proliferate as the formal state educational system seeks to fulfil its promise of establishing Bengali as the only language of state.

The definition of Bengali national identity is based on a notion of Bengali culture determined by the use of the Bengali language. National identity and language had merged in the struggle for political independence, as the erstwhile East Pakistan had sought to differentiate itself from the Western wing of that nation. The establishment of Bengali for Bangladesh as the only language of state is therefore crucial: it is its raison d’être, its mark of national identity.

Despite this, English, studied as language and literature, remains an important part of the educational curriculum. My university at Dhaka offers 120 places every year for its

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