I’m going to be presenting post-colonial approaches to texts tomorrow, so I decided I should give something of a preview.
Post-colonial theory examines the ideological formation of a certain kind of power structure (hence the affinity with New Historicism and gendered theories). The colonial power structure is founded on the formation of subjects as “other,” generally based on ethnic difference. There is a good discussion in Tyson of the instability of identity in the colonized population due to a “double consciousness,” but I thought the section on “hybridity” (the idea of a dynamic relation between cultures as a creative force) was somewhat brief. There is almost no discussion of “decolonization” and other nationalist agendas that are incredibly important to post-colonial writers.
Generally, Tyson’s explanations of the theoretical foundations of post-colonial theory are sound, though I think she too easily defines her Gatsby critique as post-colonial. Other-ing is not the only quality of the colonial project, nor is simple ethnic supremicist thought. Possession is a foundational idea in colonialist ideology- and Nick is powerless to possess the figures he identifies as ethnically different. Thus, rather than positing Nick’s assumptions of racial superiority, one might point to his impotence as a potential colonizer. Gatsby as other is an intriguing idea.
We’re going to make a critique of two texts: Eavan Boland’s poem “That the Science of Cartography is Limited” and an excerpt from the John Curran film adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil. The latter is a text from the colonizer; the former, a colonized/ post-colonial perspective. The linked text of the Boland poem includes audio, which I haven’t had a chance to listen to because of software limitations. You might also notice that my inclusion of an Irish poet indicates my strong disagreement with Tyson’s (unfounded, I believe) assertion that Ireland is not a post-colonial nation. That is a statement that can only be defended if the speaker is entirely ignorant of the more than five hundred years of colonial occupation by a foreign power (longer than any African, Asian, or American subjection to colonialist pursuits) that continues in Ireland to this day. I would like to know who participates in the “general consensus” Tyson loosely throws out (interestingly, she includes no footnote for this claim).
I hope I can make a claim for the importance of this kind of critique in our classrooms.