Li’s Mini-Lesson for Nov. 27th,2007

Li Li

AED541 Post-Colonial Criticism Mini-Lesson (handouts)

Oct.27th, 2007


Talking about Postcolonial criticism, we have to know what postcolonial literature is to begin with.

Postcolonial Literature: it seems to label literature written by people living in countries formerly colonized by other nations.

Problems with this definition: this term misleadingly implies that colonialism is over when in fact most of the nations involved are still culturally and economically subordinated to the rich industrial states through various forms of neo-colonialism even though they are technically independent.

Fact: Postcolonial writers often move to England or North American because they have been exiled, or because they find a more receptive audience there, or simply in search of more comfortable mode of living. (Source:  from Postcolonial Literature: Problems with the Term, written by Paul Brians, Aug7th, 1998)


Postcolonial Criticism can be defined as subject matter and as a theoretical framework, which is our primary concern. (Lois Tyson. Critical Theory Today. pp. 418)

As a subject matter, any analysis of a postcolonial literary work, regardless of the theoretical framework used, might be called postcolonial criticism.

As a theoretical framework, postcolonial criticism seeks to understand the operations—of colonialist and anticolonialist ideologies. Postcolonial criticism analyzes the ideological forces that, on the one hand, pressed the colonized to internalize the colonizers’ values and, on the other hand, promoted the resistance of colonized peoples against their oppressors. A work doesn’t have to be categorized as postcolonialfor us to be able to use postcolonial criticism to analyze it.

 Sample Texts: Day of Tears by Julius Lester & A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid. How do you think about the following comments? 

  1. “A mule can’t think. [And] niggers ain’t no different. …I’ve seen some mules that had more sense” (28).
  2. “They [the slaves] probably aren’t feeling anything. That’s one of the ways niggers are different from white people” (19).
  3. “I had no tolerance for niggers think they [the slaves] were the equal of whites…” (39).
  4. He put on a pair of gloves, rubs his fingers over the gums and teeth of slave, and squeezes the slave’s arms and then his things (52).
  5. “Slavery has been the best thing that’s happened to niggers because it has helped civilize them, as much as that is possible given their limited intelligence. Slavery has also built America” (47).
  6. “A society based on slavery is the highest form of civilization (50).
  7. “Slavery’s the best thing ever happened to us niggers” (97).

 Jamaica Kincaid:

  1. They should never have left their home, their precious England, a place they loved so much, a place they had to leave but could never forget. And everywhere they went they turned it into England; and everybody they met they turned into English. But no place could ever really be England, and nobody who did not look exactly like them would even be English, so you can imagine the destruction of people and land that came from that (24).
  2. But what I see is the millions of people, of whom I am just one made orphans: no motherland, no fatherland, no gods, no mounds of earth for holy ground, no excess of love sometimes brings, and worst and most painful of all, no tongue (31).
  3. Have you ever wondered to yourself why it is that all people like me seem to have learned from you is how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take the wealth of our country and place it in Swiss bank accounts? …But there must have been some good people among you, but they stayed home. And that is the point. That is why they are good (35).

Questions for discussion:

1.      What do you think about the ideology represent from above examples?

2.      Why does the slave think slavery is good for them?

3.      Analyze the unhomeliness in Jamaica Kincaid’s words. What does it suggest from her anger?

4.      “There is more than one way to colonize a population” (Introducing Cultural Studies, by Sardar and Loon, p.22). What does this mean?

5.      In India, the British left a whole class of brown Englishmen( Cultural Studies, P. 119)


Books Recommended:

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John. Canada: Collins Publishers, Toronto, 1985.

Kincaid, Jamaica. At the Bottom of the River. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983.

Kincaid, Jamaica. Lucy. New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990.

Kincaid, Jamaica. On Seeing England for the First Time. Harper’s (August 1991).

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press/Avalon Publishing Group, 1989.

Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York: Harper Perennial, 1997.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. New York: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin, 1999.



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