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Post Colonialism in Literature Definition Theory Examples Elizabeth McKinley.pdf

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Post-Colonialism in Literature: Definition, Theory & Examples Elizabeth McKinley Post-colonialism in literature includes the study of theory and literature as it relates to the colonizer- colonized experience. Edward Said is the leading theorist in this field, with Chinua Achebe being one its the leading authors. Definition In many works of literature, specifically those coming out of Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent, we meet characte
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  Post-Colonialism in Literature: Definition, Theory & Examples Elizabeth McKinley Post-colonialism in literature includes the study of theory and literature as it relates to the colonizer-colonized experience. Edward Said is the leading theorist in this field, with Chinua Achebe being one its the leading authors. Definition  In many works of literature, specifically those coming out of Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent, we meet characters who are struggling with their identities in the wake of colonization, or the establishment of colonies in another nation. For example, the British had a colonial presence in India from the 1700s until India gained its independence in 1947. As you can imagine, the people of India as well as the characters in Indian novels must deal with the economic, political, and emotional effects that the British brought and left behind. This is true for literature that comes out of any colonized nation. In many cases, the literature stemming from these events is both emotional and political. The post-colonial theorist enters these texts through a specific critical lens, or a specific way of reading a text. That critical lens, post-colonial theory or post-colonialism, asks the reader to analyze and explain the effects that colonization and imperialism, or the extension of power into other nations, have on people and nations. Effects of Colonization As mentioned above, post-colonialism asks the reader to enter a text through the post-colonial lens. The chart below will help you see how to approach a post-colonial reading of a text. As a reader, you would look for the effects of colonialism and how they are addressed through the plot, setting, and characters' actions. Theory   Edward Said's  book 'Orientalism' (1978) is considered the foundational work on which post-colonial theory developed. Said, then, could be considered the 'father' of post-colonialism. His work, including 'Orientalism', focused on exploring and questioning the artificial boundaries, or the stereotypical boundaries, that have been drawn between the East and West, specifically as they relate to the Middle  East. In doing this, Said focused specifically on our stereotypes of Middle-Easterners; however, these same ideas can be extended to include how we view all 'others.' This is the 'us'-'other' mentality that many colonizers take with them into a new country. Such simple generalizations lead to misconceptions and miscommunications, which are often the basis of post-colonial analysis. Homi Bhabha's  work, including 'The Location of Culture' (1994), focuses on the politics, emotions, and values that exist in the space between the colonizer and the colonized. In other words, cultures are more than 'us' and 'other'; they are the sum of their histories. Bhabha likes to use the word 'hybrid', meaning composed of mixed elements, to describe post-colonial people and experiences. In doing this, Bhabha focused on the collective effects of colonization on peoples and cultures. Chinua Achebe is considered one of the most significant post-colonial authors. Achebe's work focused on the colonization of Nigeria, his homeland. In 'Things Fall Apart', he focuses specifically on the struggles that Nigerians faced as the British expanded their control. These struggles included, but certainly were not limited to, religious differences and cultural challenges. To read Things Fall Apart, or any work, through a post-colonial lens, one might consider the following: (1) What effects does the colonizing power have on the characters? (2) How do the colonizers emphasize, or reinforce, the us-other mentality of the West? (3) What perceptions of the world, the nation, and the self does the text challenge/reinforce (see chart above)? Lesson Summary Post-colonialism is simply a lens through which we study literature that is set in colonized countries or deals with post-colonial issues. These issues include, but are not limited to, issues of identity, culture, politics, and economics. Leading theorists include Edward Said and Homi Bhabha, with Said focusing on stereotypes and Bhabha focusing on cultural hybridity. The most widely read post-colonial author is Chinua Achebe who wrote 'Things Fall Apart'; this novel addresses the cultural and religious struggles that Nigerians faced following British colonization.
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