The Torture of Articulation:
Teaching Slow Reading in the
Postcolonial Literature Classroom


Peter Babiak

University of British Columbia

Copyright © 1999 by Peter Babiak, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

Trying to liberate students by increasing their powers to articulate is a militant activity, carried on in the teeth of intertia, confusion and ignorance.
--Northrop Frye, "Teaching the Humanities Today" (98)

  1. Let me say at the outset that my first year teaching postcolonial literature to undergraduates at York University, a large multicultural campus in Metropolitan Toronto, made me reflect upon my own theoretical assumptions and pedagogical practices in a way that I had never done before. As a white, male instructor weaned almost exclusively on the linguistic paradigms of New Criticism and deconstruction, I found the experience of teaching literature from Africa, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, India and New Zealand at once inspiring and bracingly intimidating. It was inspiring because the class was more diverse than any I had previously taught. There was a disproportionate number of women in the class--seventeen, and four men--but they came from places like Bermuda, India, Jamaica, Mauritius, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, Singapore, the United States, and Quebec, as well as rural and urban English Canada. It was intimidating because I was in a quandary over how to mesh the real-world investments of postcolonial literature--what Edward Said calls its "obviously worldly affiliations to power and politics" (15)--with the pragmatic labours of textual analysis. I went into this class thinking that literature should be taught as rhetoric and poetics, and that historical and biographical information is useful to students only in so far as it provides them with the general conditions for understanding a text. Since there is no higher priority in life than close reading, the best thing I could do is teach them how to do virtuoso excavations of anything made of words. But as the year progressed, my expectations kept colliding with my experiences in the classroom. It was in those awkward experiences that I began to understand why the simple pedagogical task of encouraging students to read with an eye to detail, the primary goal of every good university teacher of literature, is a far more radical activity than most students and probably too many teachers are willing to admit.
  2. In a sense, my problems were symptomatic of an enduring tension in the profession of literary studies between the poetic and political dimensions of literature. Over the past two decades this methodological split has generated spirited in-house debates--between deconstruction and New Historicism, for example, and more recently between literary studies and Cultural Studies--but it is entirely dismaying how rarely the participants in these debates address themselves to questions of pedagogy. [1] As academics we need to be reminded every now to then that theory journals and conference rooms are not the only places where we prove the merits and shortcomings of our interpretive methodologies. "The proof of the pudding," as Gayatri Spivak reminds us in Outside in the Teaching Machine, "in the classroom" (274). What I propose to do here is offer a practical and theoretical account of how, during the course of a year teaching postcolonial literature to second-year students, I tried to force contact between two conventionally opposed methodological discourses, the "slow reading" of textual analysis and the oppositional ideological agenda or "fast politics" which postcolonial criticism has brought to literary studies.
  3. My aim is not to synthesize these two discourses into a new educational paradigm. From a pragmatic point of view, the banal precision of examining the rhetorical and linguistic dimensions of language may be fundamentally incompatible with questions of history and biography, or the political problems so often raised in postcolonial criticism. Nor is it clear that historical and political values are at all compatible with the linguistic structures that make up the texts from which they derive. In any event, it would be too arduous a task to vindicate the practice of close rhetorical reading now that formalist methodologies have been superseded by the politically seductive platforms of Cultural Studies, even though the latter has never managed to attract the pedagogical anxiety which accompanied the arrival of New Criticism and deconstruction on university campuses. My aim is to offer a narrative reflection on how the pedagogical and political objectives of postcolonial literary studies might be sharpened by a lingsuitically motivated practice of slow reading.
  4. On the one hand, shifting the focus of pedagogical practice from historical and political issues--"real people" and "real struggles"--to a consideration of language is probably the most effective way to deflect the humanistic cant and vapid political rhetoric that often passes as intelligent commentary in literary teaching. On the other hand, a pragmatic interest in the materiality of language moves students closer to a consideration of language in its persuasive and tropological modes, which is a crucial step in any transformative practice. The personal evocations and theoretical musings which follow aim at demonstrating both these points through a reflection on my successes and failures teaching critical textuality to second-year students. Although I have made no attempt to avoid my own speculations on postcolonial criticism, my comments are emplotted around classroom incidents and class discussions of three texts: Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, Derek Walcott's play "Dream on Monkey Mountain," and Felix Mnthali's poem "The Stranglehold of English Lit."

  5. Let me start at the beginning. It was the first class of the year and I had just finished explaining the course requirements when a student raised her hand and asked with some apprehension: "Will this class focus on historical or technical readings?" She was worried that a handout I circulated--"Terms for Slow Reading"[2] --conveyed a different methodological groundwork for the class than what was spelled out in the undergraduate calendar, which promised that each text "will be examined within its social and historical context." Her question was probably more indicative of first-day jitters than some deeply held view on the best way to read literary texts. But at the time it made me think of the enormous stakes hidden in that deceptively simple question Stanley Fish canonized for a generation of English professors and students: is there a text in this class? I was obliged to do some quick thinking to explain to her that what I was calling "slow reading"--I borrowed the term from Rueben Brower's classic "Reading in Slow Motion"[3] --did not stand in the way of learning about social context and history or mustering the political consciousness and activism that might evolve from this knowledge. To prove my point I referred them to the two punchy quotes I included as epigrams on the syllabus. The first was from Tariq Ali: "Writers should not run away from reality. In the face of horrors old and new we must fight back with our literary fists" (143). The other was from Ngugi wa Thiong'o: "The writing of literature, the criticism of literature, the teaching of literature: all these ought to be part and parcel of a total and relentless struggle against the material base of racism which in today's world means capitalism and imperialism" (Moving the Centre 131). The students may have been consoled by these assertions, but there remained a lingering suspicion, evinced by that inquisitive student the first day of class and repeated by others throughout the year, that the textual bias of slow reading is fundamentally incompatible with the worldly dimension of postcolonial literature. From time to time it seemed as if textuality and politics marked a shifting dialectical confrontation between the reading habits I was trying to instill in my students and the activism to which many of them aspired. It was a confrontation we sometimes managed to resolve but never managed to get over.
  6. It is hardly original to say that for many people who come to study postcolonial literature the attraction is often more explicitly political than, say, their reasons for studying Renaissance drama or Romantic poetry. Political is probably the wrong word to use here, but some such commitment to an investigation of the material base of postcolonial literature, to its history and its representation of actually existing social and economic conditions, and to the anti-imperialist struggles which would change these conditions, strikes me as the stance most of my students brought to class. They didn't only want to talk about different cultures; they wanted to tackle problems of oppression and inequality, both in terms of their own subject positions--as students, women, people of colour, new Canadians, children of working-class immigrants--and within the broader sphere of colonial history and its contemporary legacy.
  7. The course expectations I solicited from them the second week of classes, which ranged from predictably benign requests--"to develop a deeper understanding of writers from different parts of the world," "to read novels which have been excluded from the canon"--to more engaged demands--"to improve race relations," "to change people's Eurocentric beliefs," "to develop a platform for colonial issues like race, gender and class"--confirmed for me that many of them thought the course would have have more to do with changing the world rather than interpreting it through the expressive lens of merely literary reading. There were a few students who came to class, took notes and left, with little or no interaction or debate, and every now and then there were grumblings about "political correctness" from conservative students who felt our discussions focused too much on exploitation and oppression and not enough on the positive human qualities reflected in the texts. But most of them had tacit foreknowledge that the novels and plays and poems on our reading list had something to say about social change.
  8. I am convinced that this sense of mission is an indispensable precondition to teaching and studying postcolonial literature. For one thing, it fosters an understanding of the classroom as a public place in which questions of knowledge and discursive power relate to social criticism and its role in the struggle for a democratic society. This understanding is necessary in these times, not only in light of rear-guard actions fought by professors who want to protect the classical formation of the English canon but also because of the continuing subordination of the so-called Third World to the impulsive exploits of global capital. Having said that, I must admit that I was distressed at how effortlessly the well-intentioned activist rhetoric circulating in my class gave way to sweeping polemics against imperial injustices and allegations of individual prejudice and systemic racism that all but prohibited discussion of specific textual issues. It was not that these polemics were misdirected--they were quite accurate, though sometimes overblown; rather, the problem was that they were based on the assumption that activism and criticism are mutually antithetical pursuits.
  9. I remember a department meeting early in the year when a former instructor in the same course warned me that many students who take postcolonial literature think of themselves as "revolutionary tourists" searching for political punch-lines, not as literary critics on the trail of verbal structures. They come to class, she said, with the idea that the personal experiences and political conditions in which literary practices are inscribed have a substantive priority over textual minutiae. My gut feeling has always been that most students come to university with a strong repugnance toward thinking of literature in analytical or formal terms. I am not sure why this is so, but it may be because elementary and high school English is still taught as a humanistic and historical discipline geared towards the accumulation of ethical and aesthetic values. At any rate, among the students in my postcolonial literature class the resistance to questions of textuality was sometimes weighted with a heavy moral injunction, as if it were somehow socially shameful to talk about metaphors or grammatical tropes when the texts on the reading list so clearly demanded more practical interpretations. To quote another relevant passage from Spivak, my students seemed bound by the belief that "'if you think to much about words, you will do no deeds'" (In Other Worlds 284 n14).
  10. The full force of this injunction came to a crest the third week of classes. A student had just delivered a position paper on Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John. During her presentation she drew our attention to a passage where Annie is thinking back to her school days, remembering how Ruth, the white English girl who came to Antigua with her missionary father, was ill-prepared to answer their teacher's questions about the history of the West Indies. At first Annie thinks Ruth may have felt uneasy discussing local history because "[h]er ancestors had been the masters, while ours had been the slaves." Then she offers this explanation: "I was sure that if our ancestors had gone from Africa to Europe and come upon the people living there, they would have taken a proper interest in the Europeans on first seeing them, and said, 'How nice,' and then gone home to tell their friends about it" (76). The student argued that this statement is ironic. The capricious, matter-of-fact tone of the "How nice" quip, she said, shows the adult narrator is conceding the naivete of her earlier belief by implicitly acknowledging that, if the course of colonial history were reversed, her African ancestors would have submitted Europe to the precisely the same brutal treatment they suffered at the hands of the Europeans. The fact that it was the Europeans who colonized Africa and not the other way around, she concluded, was an accident of history. Needless to say, her argument triggered a barrage of criticisms, the sharpest of which came from a student who found her interpretation offensive because it overlooked the specificity of African slavery and its residual effects on the Caribbean diaspora. Their exchange took only a few minutes and it ended in a stalemate, but in retrospect it was a cipher on which huge theoretical and pedagogical issues were being played out.
  11. Most of the students who participated in the discussion agreed that Annie's remark on slavery could be read literally, but it was notable that the initial argument divided along racial lines: a white, Canadian-born woman arguing that the remark is ironic; a black, Jamaican-born woman calling this interpretation into question and using her own experience to initiate a discussion of the slave trade. Nor was my own role impartial. For in her uneasy rebuttal the student who presented the paper that day quite rightly pointed out that she was only following the instructions for position papers I circulated a few weeks earlier, where she read this: "You should read the texts slowly, paying particular attention to context, figures of speech, changes in tone, before moving into the general context of human experience and history." So the argument shifted to the relevance of this methodology for postcolonial literature. I explained that the instructions were not intended to stop them from making definitive historical or ethical judgements about history--I called the assignment a position paper rather than a seminar to encourage them to stake out their own critical and political positions--but there was a broad consensus that applying a slow reading strategy to that particular passage in Annie John encouraged historical amnesia around Europe's colonization of Africa.
  12. On the one hand, I could see their point. The woman who presented on Annie John displayed proficiency in her understanding of irony, but her reading ended up relativizing the history of colonization in such a way that the reality of the event was put in doubt. It seemed to be an exemplary case of the type of reading Nelly Richard says "dismantles the distinction between center and periphery, and in so doing nullifies its significance" (467). Moreover, the woman who raised the first criticism was right to suggest later in the discussion period that, as far as polemical assertions go, Annie's enigmatic remark on slavery is a minor point in the novel, one which pales by comparison to her more trenchant defacement of the picture of "Columbus in Chains" earlier in the narrative. On the other hand, however, I was seized by the idea that the position most of the students took on the issue was punctuated by a desire to overcome the language of the text and get on with the business of drawing a historical lesson from it. There is no question that the passage in question is ironic, but the fact that the text says exactly the opposite of what so many of the students wanted it to say seemed irrelevant. It was as if they were less interested in reading the passage, for fear of reading too much into it and thereby confronting at an uncomfortable hypothesis, than using it as grounds for earmarking Africa as "one undifferentiated mass of historically wronged blackness," to recall Ngugi's sardonic words in Decolonising the Mind (21). But I had trouble articulating my concerns to them, perhaps out of my own fear of appearing insensitive to their expectations and personal experiences, or perhaps because I was not fully convinced of it myself.
  13. My first reaction was to prove to them that we had to consider the possibility that Annie's remark is ironic, even if this meant qualifying our understanding of colonial history, because this is the sort of thing literary critics do. So as an addendum to our discussion, the following week I circulated copies of a letter Houston Baker wrote to the Publications of the Modern Languages Association of America. Baker openly acknowledges "the dreadfulness and even the horror of colonialism" but, following a recurring moral in the novels of Chinua Achebe, he warns us from seeing this horror "as serpentine products of the white man's arrival in Africa." "The brutality of Achebe's colonizers is nothing new," he writes. "What is new and ever renewing . . . is a postlapsarian myth of fragmentation, of imposed evil, of things only recently fallen apart" (1048).
  14. I asked the class to write a five-minute response to Baker's letter, specifically addressing how it might help settle the previous week's debate on colonization. Some conceded Baker's point and some even noticed the thematic connection between his debunking of the myth of newly arrived horrors and Annie John's ironic speculation on the colonization of Europe. Others were confused and they raised the kind of vexing questions one usually gets from polished literary theorists. Were they to proceed in their readings with a clear notion of colonial history--identifying who did what to whom and placing blame where it belongs--or was I expecting them to go around exposing the constructedness of every historical truth claim they encountered? Were they to assume that the language in postcolonial literature is an established pattern of meaning which refers directly to the real world of history and experience, or a system of arbitrary signs that can be constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed? Was this a class in historical and cultural consciousness-raising or rhetorical reading?
  15. A litany of questions flew into my head. I remembered all those warnings in the theoretical literature I read in preparation for the course and started thinking that I was inculcating a big-brother arrogance about the best way to study postcolonial literature. Taken together with my ethnicity, gender and academic-class position, did our discussions on Annie John prove that debates on subalterity are conducted by "people with voice, institutional power, and unlimited access to the technologies of textuality" (Tiffin and Lawson 10)? Did my mandate of "slow reading," which was admittedly inspired by my readings poststructuralist theory, ignore the fact that postcolonial writers "want us to believe the truth claims of the history they themselves are providing" (Mukherjee 4)? Was it a "Schweitzerism" (Abrahams 2)? An "aestheticized colonialese" (Bannerji 58)? Perhaps even "the handmaiden of repression" (Tiffin 430)?
  16. At first I thought yes on all accounts. I have always admired the discerning and eminently teachable close readings done by the critics who influenced by own academic training--namely, the New Critics and deconstructionists--but at the time it occured to me that a die-hard commitment to textual analysis was an inauspicious way to achieve the pedagogical objectives of a postcolonial literature class. The more time I spent cultivating a formal appreciation of the delicacy of language, the less time my students would have to pursue the questions and issues that attracted them to the class in the first place--questions of biography and history, issues of cultural, economic and political representation, all of which require a literal purchase to textuality. If I kept repeating that literature requires microscopic attention to detail, then they would leave my class thinking that the only things worth talking about in a literature class are modes of linguistic and rhetorical production. And I feared that such an impoverished notion of literary analysis was just a stone's throw away from the humanist hallucination that the literature classroom is an apolitical and autonomous social space divorced from the prosaic banality of the real world.
  17. I agree with Said's comment that "it is nothing short of Panglossian to assume that the careful reading of a relatively small number of works designated as humanistically, professionally, or aesthetically significant is much more than a private activity with some slender public consequences" (16). But I would hasten to add that, in the context of a postcolonial literature classroom, the sublime precision of formal analysis may in fact end up rendering a great service to the public sphere which its methodology seems to boycott. As Ngugi reminds us in Decolonising the Mind, colonial alienation begins "with a deliberate disassociation of the language of conceptualisation, of thinking, of formal education, of mental development, from the language of daily interaction in the home and in the community." It begins by "separating the mind from the body so that they are occupying two unrelated linguistic spheres in the same person. On a larger social scale it is like producing a society of bodiless heads and headless bodies" (28).

  18. So the question was how I could teach my students to attend to the philological and rhetorical devices of language and at the same time graduate this practice into a politically conscientious habit of reading? A few weeks after those classes on Annie John I took some time to explain to them that the kind of slow reading I wanted to encourage is at once more practical and much less "bodiless" than the isolationist verbalism of formalist criticism. I said something to the effect that literary language is often indirect, that it defamiliarizes our perceptions of history and experience, and that one of our jobs as literary critics is to determine the nuances of this process. [4] My rationale was pragmatic but it was also political. On the one hand, I wanted my students to avoid at any cost what Henry Louis Gates Jr. calls "the violation of the uninformed reading" (335). Instead of parsing texts and paraphrasing any idea they happened to come across in them I asked them to start thinking about how meaning is conveyed in language. To put them to this task in their written work and in-class presentations, I asked them to avoid making claims they could not support by a specific use of language in the text they were considering. Each essay and presentation should offer a concentrated analysis where they read a passage line by line, arresting the text long enough to attend to the formal workings of its language, noting which words and phrases are important, which ones need to be read figurally and which cause confusion, and why. They were encouraged to make observations on plot, setting and character, discuss biography, history and political context, and even make sweeping generalizations about the present state of the world or offer imprecise personal responses to texts, but only after they made a sustained effort to understand how the text works. They could focus on a single word, phrase, line or a lengthy passage, but the proviso was that they must anchor the analysis in the text--"never say 'this is a metaphor and it is interesting,' say what the metaphor means," "never quote a passage without saying something about it," and so on.
  19. The obvious advantage of this requirement is that it offers a manageable zone of engagement through which students can acquire competence with the formal categories of critical reading and analytical writing. From a pedagogical point of view, it is woefully inadequate to tell students to go home and read a text carefully and then hope that they will come to class having had a golden experience with its language. Short of providing them with plot summaries, the only only sure way to teach young readers the meaning of a text is to draw their attention, again and again, to the words on the page, even if this means refuting the affable liberal belief that students learn to think best in a decentred classroom where teachers in effect deskill themselves by relegating the burden of analysis to their students' personal experiences and affective responses.
  20. It was simple to explain to them that attending to the materiality of language is an effective way to understanding how meanings are produced, but it was more difficult to convince them that this pragmatic activity creates the conditions under which literary analysis can become a political force. I take very seriously Aijaz Ahmad's argument that the formal study of texts can lead to "the attendant detachment of 'Literature' from the crises and combats of real life" (53)--it does, if it amounts to tail-chasing pursuits of rhetorical kerfuffles that end up preserving the aesthetic autonomy of literary language. The only way around this trap is to deny literary language any epistemological or aesthetic privilege. From a rhetorical point of view, it is irrelevant whether a text narrates characters, describes changes in labour legislation, or argues in favour of liberalizing world trade. Any text can read the way critics read novels or poetry. After all, it is the way we read, not what we read, that makes us literary critics. So I told my students to be irreverent and read everything as if it were literature.
  21. In saying this I was trying put across to them that slow reading is a practice that can be applied to anything made of words and that this methodology, to quote Spivak again, "learned in the classroom, should slide without a sense of rupture into an active and involved reading of the social text with which the student and teacher of literature are caught" (In Other Worlds 100). We can make this "slide" by first debunking the pedestrian belief that language, both in its literary form and in its other cultural modes, is a vehicle for ideas or experiences or facts which exist in their purity in some pre-linguistic world and reorienting our habits of reading to a consideration of the rhetorical function of language. In the postcolonial literature classroom slow reading teaches us that the descriptive keywords which denote the oppressive histories and bleak states of affairs students come to class expecting to talk about--race, class, gender, empire, ethnicity, nation--are essentially contestable concepts which bear meanings far in excess of their appearance as empirical facts or juridical categories. Furthermore, these meanings are spun from fictional narratives and rhetorical aberrations and not from any objective reality which language reflects.
  22. To apply this thought to what Spivak calls the "social text," I asked the class to think about how "race" is used in popular discourse. One student cited the use of the word in a local media story about a neo-nazi organization which was at the time attracting attention for distributing hate literature. It was a good example because here the most irrational forms of hatred are presented under cover of a natural denotation of "race." We need not submit this group's publications to a literary analysis to judge their actions racist, but when we read their use of the word "race" rhetorically it becomes clear that their violent actions are grounded on a metaphorical stretching of the word to some preposterous notion of an Aryan homeland in need of defense. This does not mean that racism is only metaphorical, and it does not mean that racist behaviour happens only in books and written public records. It means that racist actions are not based on self-evident truths that are simply culled from nature but are rather rhetorically fashioned, for all too real purposes, through fictional constructions which literary analysis is well equipped to debunk. [5] The same thinking can be applied to the less conspicuous world of economics. The ideology of free-market liberalism invoked on a daily basis by governments and financial institutions goes unchallenged not because its premises are uncontestable principles of natural law but because people confuse the spellbinding linguistic reality of terms like "free market" and "competition" with natural reality. [6] Now that methods of imperial domination and neocolonial expansion have become increasingly imperceptible--that is, emplotted by "symbolic analysts" and "intellectual labourers," tempered by the disorienting whirl of information technologies and the artful forms of capitalist production--the work of close rhetorical reading is more than ever indispensable to unmasking ideological aberrations in the social text.
  23. The question is how can a pedagogical practice zero in on a productive confrontation between textual analysis and the political agenda of postcolonial literature? Over the past ten years an impressive amount of theoretical work has been written on this question. Homi Bhabha, for example, has gone to great lengths to show the importance of rethinking political action through "the dynamics of writing and textuality" (23). Chris Tiffin and Alan Lawson have compiled an extraordinary set of essays which seek to overcome the opposition between textuality and social thinking by a "process of de-scribing empire" (9). And Stephen Slemon has insisted that postcolonial critical practice "establish a specific matrix of cultural resistance within the rhetorical play of the post-colonial text" (Modernism's Last Post" 4). Such inspiring statements certainly confirm that textual analysis and political praxis occupy the same agenda. But it is another matter to demonstrate to students in a practical fashion how good reading habits might set the groundwork for challenging the imperialism and bringing about more equitable social relations.

  24. Let me explain how I tried to take up this challenge in my class. Having lectured perhaps too much on why slow reading is important to the development of their critical skills, I began applying to lectures and class discussions the same rationale I expected of my students in their written work. One of the most productive encounters we had was in our discussion of "Dream on Monkey Mountain," a play Derek Walcott wrote in 1959 with the Trinidad Theatre Workshop and staged in Toronto in 1967. One of the issues that kept creeping to the forefront of our discussions of the text was the question of how postcolonial subjects react to the economic and psychological effects of colonization. We took stock of the character movements in the three Caribbean novels we read to date. At the end of V. S. Naipaul's Miguel Street the nameless narrator leaves the West Indies for an education in the metropolis, as does Annie John in Kincaid's novel. In Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, on the other hand, Moses Aloetta considers leaving the other West Indians who have come to England in search of prosperity and returning to his native Trinidad. In Walcott's play we were confronted with something different: an assertion of cultural identity by revolutionary action.
  25. Our attention was fixed on the penultimate scene of the play where Makak, the old hermit charbonnier from Monkey Mountain (a fictional Morne of Walcott's native Saint Lucia), is sleeping off a drunk-and-disorderly charge in prison and dreaming that he is a latter-day African prophet dispensing retributive justice to his ancestor's enemies. In the dream Makak listens to Corporal Lestrade's fiery deposition--"We have no time for patient reforms . . . our progress cannot stop to think" (311)--and then watches as the phantom tribunal renders verdicts of guilty against a prominent cast of historical figures, including Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, Cecil Rhodes, Florence Nightingale, Robert E. Lee, Tarzan, and Al Jolson. "Their crime," as the figure of death charges, "whatever their plea, whatever extenuation of circumstances, whether of genius or geography, is, that they are indubitably . . . white" (312). After the verdict is rendered, the apparition of the White Goddess is brought before Makak. She has visited his dreams before and he has called her "The loveliest thing I see on this earth,/Like the moon walking along her own road" (227). But here she is a phantasmic object of desire which stands in the way of his self-identity as a Black man. As Franz Fanon might say, she represents Makak's "desire to be suddenly white," to "marry white culture, white beauty, white whiteness . . . grasp white civilization and dignity and make them mine" (Black Skin, White Masks 63). "To be black like coal, and to dream of milk," is how Souris, one of the men incarcerated with Makak, describes his fellow prisoner's mindset (290). This is why the tribunal calls on Makak to execute her. As Lestrade explains, somewhat ironically since in his daytime persona he is an unrepentant Europhile mulatto: "She is the colour of the law, religion, paper, art, and if you want peace, if you want to discover the beautiful depth of your blackness, nigger, chop off her head!" (319). Stirred into hatred and then into action, Makak beheads the White Goddess. Then he awakens and finds it was all a dream.
  26. This conclusion left us hanging on two interpretations. Some students thought the play sanctions revolutionary violence, a justifiable conclusion since it was written against the backdrop of the political independence movements of the 1950s and the négritude and Black Power movements of the 1960s. The thinking here was that, since the first gesture of colonization is always violent exploitation, oppressed people can only win back their freedom by waging an armed struggle against their oppressors--by any means necessary, so to speak. Fanon makes the same point in The Wretched of the Earth, a book which had no small impact on Walcott's writing: "decolonization is always a violent phenomenon" (35). The salient point is that the anti-imperialist liberation movement, which proposes a unified response to colonisation, is the last refuge of dignity for colonized peoples. For them, to continue with Fanon, "life can only spring up again out of the rotting corpse of the settler" because "violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect" (93-4).
  27. In Walcott's play the White Goddess is Makak's angel but she becomes his demon, a dramatic projection of the colonial psychosis which at once lulls him into a sense of security and binds him to servitude. By executing her he is destroying much more than his oppressor; he is destroying an externally-imposed image of himself. This is what Sartre refers to in his Preface to The Wretched of the Earth, where he claims that "to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time" (22). [7] It is for this reason that Makak marks the death of the White Goddess with the words, "Now, O God, now I am free" (320). That this agonistic encounter is contained in a dream is immaterial from a strategic point of view, because upon his release from prison Makak expresses a hope that his people will one day look up to his hermitage on Monkey Mountain and say "'Makak lives there. Makak lives where he has always lived, in the dream of his people'" (326), which suggests that the dream is not simply fantasy but a symbolic expression of his community's political desires.
  28. On the other hand, some students said the violence enacted in Makak's dream is too fanatical to be taken seriously. There is a parodic element in Walcott's representation of a Black nationalism because the violence Makak enacts in the name of exercising a rupture with European domination results in a nativist militancy which is only a symmetrical inversion of colonial brutality. One student cited an assigned reading by Biodun Jeyifo, who argues that Makak's dream "dramatizes the falsity and pitfalls" of a decolonization project conceived as a total rejection of Europe and a call for "an autochthonous, pristine, originary aesthetic" (387). In this interpretation, the violence in the dream is the result of specious thinking. The polemical reasons for beheading the White Goddess are unmistakable, but the fact that the event is from the get-go gussied up in frenetic African nationalism renders the revolutionary tribunal blind to the fact that the cultural identity of the Caribbean is by no means clear-cut. It is true that, like the African négritude poets Leopold Sénghor and David Diop, Walcott courts naive polarities between African innocence and European depravity, but rather like Annie John in Kincaid's novel he was skeptical of articulating Caribbean identity in terms of a mystical conception of Africa or blackness. As he argues elsewhere, "[f]or us, whose tribal memories have died, and who have begun again in a New World," the symbolic rediscovery of an African personality "offers an assertion of pride, but not of our complete identity, since that is mixed and shared by other races" ("Necessity of Negritude 22- 3).
  29. We agreed that it is unnecessary to state which interpretation is more fitting since, on a symbolic level, they do not cancel each other out. Makak's execution of the white apparition is remarkable for what it reveals about the cycle of violence generated by colonization; the sheer madness of the event reveals the dangers of remaining blind to the imperative of decolonization. It is enough to say that Makak's dream calls into question the need to foster any kind of imitative relationship, whether it is a revolutionary assertion of a mythical African consciousness or a complicitous assertion of the status quo. The question it left us with was how anti-colonialist objectives can be taken up in such a way that colonized people have the positive capacity to regenerate the political and cultural life of their own society without reaching to Africa or Europe for their models.

  30. The consequences of the middle ground between these two positions translates into the motif of "twilight" Walcott invokes in "What the Twilight Says: An Overture," the poetic prologue to the plays in the Dream on Monkey Mountain collection. Walcott makes a number of keen observations in this essay--e.g., the romanticization of the peasant in West Indian theatre, the preservation of the colonial demeanour in the State's conception of folk art, the prostitution of the tourist industry, the tendency among radicals to view illiteracy as an attribute rather than a defect--but what is particularly useful from a pedagogical perspective is how he envisions the project of decolonization through the paradigm of language. I asked my students to consider his proposition that the way to deliver "the New World Negro" from colonial servitude is by "forging a language that went beyond mimicry, a dialect which has the force of revelation as it invented names for things" and "to share in the torture of its articulation" (17). We began by excavating the essay in class, reading it aloud and re-reading it line by line, making sense of the syntax, explicating the figures and trying to come to some consensus about their meaning. We had been reading for about an hour when we stumbled on this passage:
  31. Centuries of servitude have to be shucked; but there is no history, only the history of emotion. Pubescent ignorance comes into the light, a shy girl, eager to charm, and one's instinct is savage: to violate that ingenuousness, to degrade, to strip her of those values learnt from films and books because she too moves in her own hallucination: that of a fine and separate star, while her counterpart, the actor, sits watching, but he sits next to another hallucination, a doppelganger released from his environment and his race. Their simplicity is really ambition. Their gaze is filmed with hope of departure. The noblest are those who are trapped, who have accepted the twilight. (5)

  32. Why are the noblest trapped in the twilight? How do they differ from the more decisive figures of the shy girl and the actor? Why is there no history? These are some of the questions the passage generated and I asked students to address them for the next class, under the condition that they substantiate their claims with reference to Walcott's other uses of the "twilight" metaphor and address themselves to the crucial questions he poses at the end of the essay: "What to do then? Where to turn? How to be true?" (37). The responses they submitted bore little resemblance to the polemical interpretations of Makak's dream, but what they lost in generality they made up for in precision and innovation.
  33. Most of them identified the shy girl and actor as colonial stereotypes. "The girl is the colonized consciousness and the actor is the European"; "they are different people but they are alike because both are Black and both want to escape: the girl is hiding in her immaturity and the actor pretends he is white"; "their hallucinations are what Walcott calls 'the inevitable problem of all island artists: the choice of home or exile'" (39). Their speculations on "twilight" were less decisive. They recognized that the figure is carried over from Walcott's description of dusk falling on "those ramshackle hoardings of wood and rusting iron which circle our cities" and his claim that "the sun would never set until its twilight became a metaphor for the withdrawal of Empire and the beginning of our doubt" (3, 4). But many of them noticed that the tenor of this metaphor is repeated in a number of Walcott's self-descriptions: the "mulatto of style," the artist who writes neither in the language of the people nor in proper English but tolerates both (9); the "mongrel" who twitches when he sees "the word Ashanti as with the word Warwickshire, both separately intimating my grandfathers' roots, both baptising this neither proud nor ashamed bastard, this hybrid, this West Indian" (10); the writer who makes "creative use of his schizophrenia, an electric fusion of the old and the new" (17); the playwrite whose generation at once felt the "urge towards the metropolitan language" and knew "[i]t was always the fate of the West Indian to meet himself coming back" (27); the critic who must know that, although "[o]ur bodies think in one language and move in another," "the language of exegesis is English" and that "the manic absurdity would be to give up thought because it is white" (31).
  34. I had thought, when coming to review these responses in class, that I would find it hard to return Walcott's poetic musings to those blunt political questions "What to do then? Where to turn? . . ." It may be easy to see why the shy girl and the actor are negated as fixed character-types--since they are among those who "imitate the images of ourselves" (25)--but how exactly are the groundless figurations of twilight actionable in any meaningful political sense? Our discussion of this question evolved in more or less the following way. Though the passage begins with the decisive assertion "Centuries of servitude have to be shucked," the force of the statement is immediately called into question by the qualifier "but there is no history, only the history of emotion." We could say that Walcott's conception of the twilight as a dehistoricized, yet-to-be-named space on which to ground a truly post-colonial identity anticipates stylish postmodernist celebrations of the fluidity of identity and the constructedness of all things under the sun. After all, his emphasis on the need to construct a hybrid cultural identity along textual lines anticipates Bhabha's view of culture as a "moment of enunciation," an idea to which we had devoted some discussion. Against "the traditional cultural demand for a model, a tradition, a community, a stable system of reference"--supplied on the Right by imperial teleologies and on the Left by mythical traditions and emancipatory master-narratives--Bhabha situates the liberating capacity of cultural practice on the ambivalent terrain of discursive intervention, that is, in what he calls "the shifting, strategically displaced time of the articulation of a historical politics of negotiation" (35).
  35. This familiar strategy of dissolving the substantive and procedural truth claims of history and politics--indeed all foundational categories--and recasting them in textual terms also comes out strongly in Walcott's work, though much less cerebrally. In "The Caribbean: Culture or Mimicry?," for example, he writes: "In the Caribbean history is irrelevant, not because it is not being created, or because it was sordid; but because it has never mattered. What has mattered is the loss of history, the amnesia of the races, what has become necessary is imagination, imagination as necessity, as invention" (53). Walcott makes a similar move to replace the brutal factuality of history with creative imagination in "What the Twilight Says" where he argues that Black people in the Caribbean can end their servitude only by forging a new language and that "this, not merely the debt of history was [their] proper claim to the New World" (17). Though this new language would have "the force of revelation as it invented names for things"--a performative language in the current theoretical jargon--to say that Walcott's message is that experimenting with textual gambits and catchy metaphors is the pith and substance of anti-imperialist activism is tantamount to restricting the project of decolonization to the self-styled radicalism of aesthetic innovation. It is true that Walcott binds the political message in his text to the turns of its language, especially to those inventive elaborations of the metaphor of twilight which escape critical paraphrase, but in this there is little of the postmodernist claim that history and politics are textual phenomena which possess no determinate truth-value and therefore offer no legitimate springs for action.
  36. This became clear when we noticed that his poetic inflections of twilight are strategically grounded in his opening description of dusk falling on "those ramshackle hoardings of wood and rusting iron which circle our cities" (3). There is an unquenchable materiality to the metaphor. This is why it is so useful from a political as well as pedagogical point of view. On the one hand, it illustrates the passionate search for identity every self-respecting culture or nation-state experiences when it shucks colonial domination, that "tabula rasa," as Fanon calls it," which characterizes at the outset all decolonization" (The Wretched of the Earth 35). It is precisely because Walcott is working this moment of decolonization through metaphoric practice that any indecision is encountered, but this does not lead to political paralysis for this moment can equally take the form of the revolutionary negation of cultural imperialism symbolically enacted in "Dream on Monkey Mountain" or a more procedural "delinking" (to use Samir Amin's well-known term) from, say, residual mechanisms of colonization like foreign debt servicing or flexible production techniques which pretend to transcend the interests of nation-states. On the other hand, the metaphor of twilight illustrates that, whatever form it takes, the roots of this movement are grounded in the material conditions of colonized spaces. The fact that the metaphor emerges first in the context of "ramshackle hoardings" forces us to acknowledge that Walcott's conception of Caribbean identity is rooted in actually existing conditions and not a matter of binding axioms either formulated in accordance with some mythopoetic version of the past. And this material imperative explains the implied violence of Makak's dream: neither fact nor fiction, it operates as a nebulous reminder that if something new is going to be built, then something has to change.
  37. I think we emerged from Walcott's essay with a better sense of how the interior life of literary production returns to the outward life of political action. Our class discussion was not merely a collective indulgence in a thought-provoking metaphor; nor was it geared to reading Walcott as though he were providing us with a manual for decolonisation. What the students seemed to take away from the class is that the metaphor of twilight is not only incidental window dressing on an otherwise firm set of facts relating to history but that, in Walcott's text, it functions as a model for the future construction of an anti-colonial political practice. As Stuart Hall argues in his essay on Caribbean culture, "Identity is not in the past to be found, but in the future to be considered" (14). To put this in rhetorical terms, the metaphor of twilight is where the politics of identity segues into textuality. A truly post-colonial identity can not be defined by appealing to a language that is purely denotative, because this language describes the condition that must be overcome. If your culture or community starts with nothing, from "the loss of history, the amnesia of the races" as Walcott describes it, then your postcolonial identity will be an "imagined community," it will take the form of something new and unprecedented, rather like a metaphor. And yet, since every anti-colonial liberation movement requires a community and a stable system of reference for its ground--"No cultural identity is produced out of thin air" (Hall 14)--the political calculation and strategic action required to establish this new identity must be rooted in material conditions.

  38. More than a month after our discussion of Walcott we came up against a problem, namely, how to square the debunked notions of a nostalgic and sentimentalist "Africa" that came up in our study of Caribbean literature with our reading of nationalist African poets. The Malawian poet Felix Mnthali's "The Stranglehold of English Lit." (1961) presented us with the difficult task of maintaining the nexus between transformative politics and textuality in the more focalized language of poetry. Before settling down to read the poem aloud together I asked the class to respond in writing to a lead question: "Do you think a poem loses something when we look for metaphors, identify rhyme patterns, describe diction, etc?" As I expected, most answered in the affirmative, and many of them defended their position by pointing out that poetry is subjective and therefore cannot, or rather should not, be reduced to textual analysis. "The reading you always want us to do makes poetry a technicality instead of an emotion"; "We lose the rhythm and beauty of the poem if we read to much into it"; "Close readings assume that there is a correct solution to a poem, and there never is"; "If you look too closely for too long a poem loses its impact." And so on.
  39. When we read Mnthali's poem, however, we hit a paradox: on the one hand, what most of the students thought was the subjective nature of poetry and, on the other, the polemical assertion underpinning the meaning of this poem, which is an overt attack on the political consequences of academic escapism. This paradox was compounded by the fact that Mnthali's seven stanza free-verse poem is deeply invested in those questions of history, representation and truth which the textualist orientation of Walcott's work puts into question. It begins with an indirect reference to questions typically asked in English literature classes--questions which "stand/stab/jab/and gore/too close to the centre!"--and then it poses this formidable rhetorical question:
  40. . . . if we had asked
    why Jane Austen's people
    carouse all day
    and do no work
    would Europe in Africa
    have stood
    the test of time?
    and would she still maul
    the flower of our youth
    in the south?
    Would she?
    The poem provides an answer to this question in the penultimate stanza, where the speaker confesses in no uncertain terms that "Eng. Lit." is "more than a cruel joke--/it was the heart/of alien conquest."

  41. The argument is consonant with a number of asides I had offered throughout the year on the role of language and literature in colonization. Ngugi, whose novel Weep Not, Child we had read two weeks before, provided an axis for our discussion of the poem. As a background to that novel's dramatization of the dialectic between violent and diplomatic resolutions to political and labour unrest, I had circulated passages from Decolonising the Mind, where we came across Ngugi's description of colonial power: "language was the most important vehicle through which that power fascinated and held the soul prisoner," he writes. "The bullet was the means of the physical subjugation. Language was the means of the spiritual subjugation" (9). The students accepted without question that language functions as a form of subjugation. Most of them, however, had difficulty admitting that literature, let alone poetry, should have any direct political function at all, although this contradicted the polemical assertions they so freely made about works like Annie John and, to a lesser extent, "Dream on Monkey Mountain." In any event, it was plain to everyone that the indefinite "she" pronoun in Mnthali's poem, which refers to both Jane Austen and England, clearly implicates literature in the violence of colonization.
  42. To clarify the confusion between the political accusation implied in the grammatical structure of the text and their defenses of the subjective nature of poetry, I asked them to think about the function of "Jane Austen." I suggested that what we take away from the poem will be determined by how we interpret this keyword: do we read the name metaphorically or literally? Most said Austen represents the English colonizers and that they, not Austen's works, are the the ones doing the mauling in the poem. It is important that she is a novelist, but it is not her novels that Mnthali is complaining about--why would he, when her books make good films, as one student asked? It is "Jane Austen's people," the people who read her books and the people in them, who are to blame.
  43. Their desire to reserve a special place for poetry, supplemented by their refusal to read along with Mnthali and ascribe a measure of blame to literature, caused some problems in figuring out what "The Stranglehold of English Lit." is all about. We ran into a similar problem the week before when we read another one of his poems, "My Father," with its literal references to "the pittance/ of American multi-nationals" and to blacks as "a 'labour force'/the long arm of their/'manifest destiny.'" They enjoyed the poem, and they were certainly willing to second its militant rhetoric and make blunt declarations about American imperialism and the corporate exploitation of Africa, but they saw it as an emotional ode which only happens to use the non-poetic vocabulary of class and economics to make its point. Poetry, it seemed, was for them hopelessly locked into an intentional subjective structure which is at once too difficult to pin down and therefore too difficult to correlate to any real world issues.
  44. I attempted to clarify matters by asking the class to compose a short free-write response to the next two stanzas of "The Stranglehold," where Jane Austen appears again, this time an agent of colonial oppression.
  45. Your elegance of deceit,
    Jane Austen,
    lulled the sons and daughters
    of the dispossessed
    into a calf-love
    with irony and satire
    around imaginary people.
    While history went on mocking
    the victims of branding irons
    and sugar-plantations
    that made Jane Austen' people
    wealthy beyond compare!

  46. In their responses to this remarkable figuration they acknowledged the opposition between, on the one hand, actually existing history and, on the other, the "imaginary people" of Austen's novels. "Mnthali's ancestors read too much"; "Literature is not real"; "You can't just spend your time reading books or else the world with collapse"; "Reading is a leisurely activity, it doesn't change anything." The upshot was that, for Mnthali, literature is an escape. But this begged a further question: if literature is being held accountable for lulling "the sons and daughters/of the dispossessed" how is it that it has no effect? A point of clarification came from one dissenting voice in the class. Mnthali's problem is not literature, she said, it is English literature, by which she meant not literature written in English but the English literary canon and the way that it is taught in universities--the literary trinity that all English majors must read in their second year: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton.
  47. Here we came to the central message of the poem, for this student's comment suggested that the "political" dimension of Mnthali's poem has less to do with matters of state and economic trade than with the politics of English literature. It put us to two questions. The first concerned the formation of the English canon, which is of course the political site par excellence where students in a postcolonial literature class acquire first-hand experience with colonization--whether they know it or know. We had learned throughout the year that questions of identity are always questions of representation and I had frequently marked this phenomenon with Helen Tiffin's argument concerning "Europe's textual capture of the rest of the world" (428). When it came to striking a self-reflexive critical pose and inquiring after the causes and effects of studying the English canon, however, the students were, perhaps for pragmatic reasons, resigned to the fact that what counts as literature is what is taught in the classroom. The sentiment seemed to be that, while we should be properly suspicious of all forms of literary canonization, particularly those that claim the ability to periodize and contain texts around a history or nationality, we cannot fail to recognize the heuristic value of this pursuit, especially when it comes to such seemingly banal matters as course planning. Nor does Mnthali's poem suggest the English canon be replaced by a native one; the issue it raises concerns the methodology rather than the object of literary study.
  48. And this brought us to a second question. We took our cue from the pointed question posed by the speaker in Mnthali's: "if we had asked" questions relating to the class structures represented in Austen--specifically, why her people "do no work"--how would that have changed the course of colonial history? Bearing in mind that the implied setting of this question is an English class where Austen's work would be studied, I asked my students to venture a guess as to what questions were being asked instead of this dire one? It was tempting for some students to suggest that the line of questioning Mnthali is criticizing is conventional literary analysis, the kind of questions we had been raising in class. And there was some justification for this conclusion, since in the poem the "dispossessed" people who read and study Austen are distracted from asking the really important questions by an "elegance of deceit" transmitted through "irony and satire."
  49. At this point, someone recalled our earlier discussion of "irony" in Annie John, and she suggested that, in retrospect, to raise the question of irony was in some way to be lulled by the same academic escapism Mnthali's poem criticizes. Her point was that, if we would have read the text literally instead of analysing its rhetorical detail then we would have been more attune to the brutal facts of colonization, much in the same way that Europe would not have stood the test of time in Africa if Mnthali's people would have read Austen at her word. We failed to resolve this problem, nor could we have, since the poem authorizes the accusation that the privileged questions we ask of texts in English classes can be so slavishly immaterial that they lull us into an acceptance of what is happening in the world. What we did learn is that we come to this understanding of the privileged explanations of literary analysis--indeed, a critical understanding of the political implications of own work as literary critics--even as we generate them. Which is to say that our encounter with Mnthali's poem led us to the confrontational position of putting in question the disciplinary ideology of literary analysis by submit the text to such an analysis.

  50. I never finally succeeded in demonstrating to my class the connection between transformative political practice and critical textuality. I may have convinced them that they cannot avoid responding to structures of language and jump immediately to the study of biography or history or politics or social context, and some may have finished the year with a better sense of why slow reading matters. Some never saw the point of restricting our attention to considerations of textual matters rather than on the historical or political meanings of the texts, perhaps because it never became immediately evident just how the pursuit of historical and political criticism is compatible with attending to the rhetorical and philological devices of language. And yet, it was while teaching this class that I felt the strongest sense that what I was doing as a teacher actually mattered, but not only because postcolonial literature connected my students to the worldly dimension of writing. Rather, it was because we came to a restrained agreement that mere reading can turn critical discourse into an activity that is relevant to an understanding of what makes this writing worldly in the first place. What these scattered reflections amount to, I do not know; they are likely to provoke as many contradictions as criticisms, but I hope that they have offered some insight into the uses and limits of formalist reading strategies in a postcolonial literature classroom.

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    [I would like to thank the course director of English 2370.06: Postcolonial Literature, Frank Birbalsingh, as well as Julie Carnie-Richardson and Neeta Singh, for sharing their insights and experiences with me throughout the year. I would also like to thank Pat Rogers of the Centre for Support of Teaching at York University for helping me work through the issues and arguments presented in this paper during her faculty seminar on University Teaching and Learning. This essay was partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.]

    1. Former Preseident of the Modern Languages Association of America, Biddy Martin, has addressed this methodological divide in her editor's introduction to a recent issue of PMLA. She suggests that "the tensions between the political and poetic dimensions of culture and those between the subjective and objective aspects of reading must be kept alive--and the shifting boundaries between those dimensions and aspects analyzed--no matter what changes occur in the field of literary studies" (8). Back

    2. My list of critical terms included allegory, allusion, defamiliarization, irony, metaphor, picaresque, and satire, to name a few. Along with it I circulated a handout listing "Themes and Motifs: Keywords" such as colonization, diaspora, empire, hybridity, identity, multiculturalism, nation, negritude, race, regionalism, settler and non-settler colony. Back

    3. Brower's essay was originally published in 1959. It was reprinted in a useful collection of essays on textuality and literary history called In Defense of Reading. His argument, which derives from I. A. Richards' "practical criticism," is that teachers and students of literature must proceed "by slowing down the process of reading to observe what is happening, in order to attend very closely to the words, their uses, and their meanings" (4). Back

    4. My summary here owes much to Brower's work but more so to Paul de Man's essay "The Return to Philology," which commemorates Brower's Harvard undergraduate course on "The Interpretation of Literature." De Man recounts how his own "awareness of the critical, even subversive, power of literary instruction does not stem from philosophical allegiances" but from the experience of Brower's course. "I have never known a course by which students were so transformed," de Man writes (The Resistance to Theory 23). More recently, this concept of "slow reading" has been articulated alongside some pressing issues in Cultural Studies by Geoffrey Hartman in "The Fate of Reading: Once More." Back

    5. On a number of occasions over the course of the year, I presented this distinction to my class by citing two helpful passages. The first is from J. M. Blaut's book, The Colonizer's Model of the World: "the really crucial part of Eurocentrism is not a matter of attitudes in the sense of values and prejudices, but rather a matter of science, and scholarship, and informed and expert opinion. To be precise, Eurocentrism includes a set of beliefs that are statements about empirical reality, statements educated and usually unprejudiced Europeans accept as true, or propositions supported by 'the facts'" (9). The second passage, which revolves around theoretical conceptions of racism in Afro-American culture, is from bell hooks' Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics: "racism is perpetuated when blackness is associated solely with concrete gut level experience conceived as either opposing or having no connection to abstract thinking and the production of critical theory. Back

    6. My thinking here is indebted to Paul de Man's argument in his essay "The Resistance to Theory," namely that "ideology is precisely the confusion of linguistic with natural reality" (11). Back

    7. It is useful to note that Walcott uses the following quote from Jean-Paul Sartre's Preface to The Wretched of the Earth as an epigram to Part One of "Dream on Monkey Mountain": "Thus in certain phychoses the hallucinated person, tired of always being insulted by his demon, one fine day starts hearing the voice of an angel who pays him compliments; but the jeers don't stop for all that; only from then on, they alternate with congratulations. This is a defence, but it is also the end of the story. The self is disassociated, and the patient heads for madness" (19). Back




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