Academic journal article International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities

Season of Migration to the North and Heart of Darkness African Mimicry of European Stereotypes

Academic journal article International Research Journal of Arts and Humanities

Season of Migration to the North and Heart of Darkness African Mimicry of European Stereotypes

Article excerpt

Introduction

According to Mikhail Bakhtin, all speech utterances are heteroglot and polyphonic in that they "partake of different languages and resonate with many voices" (Bakhtin, 1981: 428). Because of its emphasis on voices, Bakhtin' s dialogic theory of literature presents particularly rich potential for the study of literary texts. His method of analyzing embedded voices or vocal orchestration to guide our interpretation of a literary text cannot only demonstrate polyphony and heteroglossia, but can also serve as a tool for uncovering new insights into the various levels of voices that populate a novel. For Bakhtin, the layering of voices within one voice is nowhere clearer than in the novel whose epic mode and discursive linguistic features of telling a complex story is unique. To this effect, the novel is a "vocal" text and novelistic writing, as discourse, cannot be dialogical if it is not accompanied by an additional effort to lend it a voice. Even internal dialogues are no more than the result of double-voicedness or, in a more powerful form, of polyphony. In this connection, comparative literature which invites a critical study of intertextual elements of two or more literary texts lies at the heart of polyphony and dialogue studies.

A comparative approach to literature is one that "crosses linguistic and cultural boundaries and presupposes the mutual reinforcement of theory and interpretation without sacrificing the autonomy of the individual text" (Greene, 1993:148). In this sense, intertextuality as a style often used in producing postcolonial literature, may function as a fundamental criticism of the colonial hegemony claiming to possess the single, unitary truth permeating almost entirely all canonical works in Western literature (See also Thieme, 2001; Wodak, 1999; Harlow, 1979). Rather than simply being the writing which 'came after' the colonial era and its literary heritage, postcolonial literature is generally defined as that which critically and subversively scrutinizes the colonial discourse across various Western writings. It is meant, in one way or another, to resist colonialist onesided perspectives as well as challenge existing power relations. In other words, postcolonial writers, and more particularly those who mimic and parody colonial literary masters, are simply there to tell their own side of the North-South story which has been hidden for long from the readers in the West (See Benjamin, 1969; Ashcroft, 2000). To give expressions to colonized experience, postcolonial writers sought to undercut thematically and formally the discourses which supported the claims of colonization - the myths of power and superiority, the race classifications, and the imagery of subordination. Whether viewed as a strategy for contesting the authority of the canon, or a counter-discursive practice of the original text, or even as a parody of the colonial "other", postcolonial literature undertakes to rework big issues misrepresented in the great tradition of Western representative fiction (See Kalu, 2007; Firchow, 2000; Said, 1994; Nazareth, 1982; Achebe, 1958).

This article is primarily concerned with the study of mimicry as a narrative device used by Tayeb Salih in his novel Season of Migration to the North as he parodies Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Salih admits the influence of Conrad in a lecture he gave at the American University of Beirut on May 19, 1980: "As far as form goes, I have been especially struck by Conrad in Heart of Darkness and Nostromo" (Amyuni, 1985:15). The polyphonic nature of Salih's postcolonial narrative, built around scenes in dialogue, on conversations, debates, arguments, and even monologues, insists on producing a multiplicity of voices among which the author's is hardly audible. However, polyphony does not literally refer to a number of voices but to the collective quality of an individual voice, thereby creating a dialogic relationship among distinct and independent voices (Bakhtin, 1979). …

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