Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture

Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture

Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture

Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture


Women and resistance in Iran; cowboy songs; fetal alcohol syndrome; the conquest of Everest; women settlers in Natal. What do these topics have in common?

The study of what used to be called Commonwealth literature, or the new literatures, has by now come to be known as postcolonial study. This collection of essays investigates the status of postcolonial studies today.

The contributors come from three generations: the pioneers who introduced study of the "new" literatures into university English departments, the next generation who refined and developed many of the theoretical positions embodied in postcolonial study, and the next, much younger, generation, who use the established practices of the discipline to investigate the application of this theory in a wide range of cultural contexts.

Although the authors write from such different starting points, a surprisingly similar set of images, phrases and topics of concern emerge in their essays. They return constantly to issues of difference and similarity, the re-examination of categories that often appear to be too rigidly defined in current postcolonial practices, and to concepts of sharing: experience, ideas of home, and even the use of land.

Postcolonizing the Commonwealth: Studies in Literature and Culture offers an intriguing analysis of the state of postcolonial criticism today and of the application of postcolonial methods to a variety of texts and historical events. It is an invaluable contribution to the current debate in both literary and cultural studies.


Rowland Smith

All but one of these essays originated as papers delivered in November 1997 at the "Commonwealth in Canada” conference held at Wilfrid Laurier University in Water- loo, Ontario—one of the triennial conferences organized by the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (CACLALS). The only exception, the essay on recent Afrikaans writing by Sheila Roberts, was delivered at the regular, annual conference of CACLALS, held the following spring in Ottawa as part of the Canadian Congress of the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Its obvious linkage to themes and issues raised by the other authors in this volume led to its inclusion.

It is saddening to report that one of the contributors, Jacqueline Bardolph of the University of Nice, a plenary speaker at the triennial conference, and one of the pioneers in the promotion and study of "new literatures” in France, died in 1999 while this volume was in press.

One of the original aims of the "Commonwealth in Canada” conference (the title is the traditional one for CACLALS triennials) was to use plenary sessions to discuss varying approaches to what used to be called "Commonwealth Literature” in various countries. "Commonwealth in a Postcolonial World” was one subtitle thought of to describe this intention. What did in fact emerge, however, was a series of papers, not all of which are included in this volume, that varied significantly in the ways authors conceived of the topic.

While there was no consistency of approach in the plenary sessions on how the field was studied in France / Europe, in Jamaica/the Caribbean, in South Africa, in Australia and in Canada, there emerged . . .

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