Insurgent Testimonies: Witnessing Colonial Trauma in Modern and Anglophone Literature

Insurgent Testimonies: Witnessing Colonial Trauma in Modern and Anglophone Literature

Insurgent Testimonies: Witnessing Colonial Trauma in Modern and Anglophone Literature

Insurgent Testimonies: Witnessing Colonial Trauma in Modern and Anglophone Literature

Synopsis

During the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, insurgencies erupted in imperial states and colonies around the world, including Britain's. As Nicole Rizzuto shows, the writings of Ukrainian-born Joseph Conrad, Anglo-Irish Rebecca West, Jamaicans H. G. de Lisser and V. S. Reid, and Kenyan Ng gi wa Thiong'o testify to contested events in colonial modernity in ways that question premises underlying approaches in trauma and memory studies and invite us to reassess divisions and classifications in literary studies that generate such categories as modernist, colonial, postcolonial, national, and world literatures.

Departing from tenets of modernist studies and from methods in the field of trauma and memory studies, Rizzuto contends that acute as well as chronic disruptions to imperial and national power and the legal and extra-legal responses they inspired shape the formal practices of literatures from the modernist, colonial, and postcolonial periods.

Excerpt

To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way
it really was.” … It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a
moment of danger.

—WALTER benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”

In this book, I examine how British, Caribbean, and African Anglophone writing elaborates an ethics and politics of witnessing events in imperial modernity that generated crises in historical memory. During the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, insurgencies erupted in imperial states and colonies around the world, including Britain’s. At the time of such conflicts, England was confronting social and political unrest within its borders, undergoing cultural and economic shifts accompanying the growth and decline of empire, participating in geopolitical realignments of Europe and the global “East” and “West,” and fighting in world wars. Britain relied on legislation, trials, changes in policing, and extraordinary techniques such as indefinite detention and torture to restore or maintain order while also attempting to protect cherished narratives of national cohesion and imperial benevolence that would secure it from charges of totalitarianism and barbarism leveled at other imperial powers. the writings collected here depict these historical events and their after effects as . . .

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