Colonial & Post-colonial Literature in English (25 September 2016) Discussion 3

third Sunday discussion featuring our WhatsApp group members
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Shivagnaman: Today’s topic is “colonial and post-colonial literature”.

India was colonized by the British like many countries were being colonized by them. Colonial talks about before independence and post-colonial are about after independence. Majorly, the impact of the changes made by the colonizers before and after. It also applies to all other countries which were the part of the British empire. I suppose. Colonialism began much earlier with the discovery of America. It was a big issue during Shakespeare’s time as well. The opening up of new frontiers and new land being discovered stimulated European information. Shakespeare’s imagination has taken this into account. Exploration of new geographical spaces and control of those lands by the explorers is basically what we know by colonialism. “Tempest” is one of the examples of postcolonial study.

Alok: Good to see you back, Siva. I agree with you about the core concept of Colonial and Post-colonial literature. However, we cannot be so certain that it began only with the discovery of America. On abstract notes, colonialism is something that cannot be dated. If we go by the myths of the Greek nation, we have ample examples – to say, let’s have Zeus. He had so many ‘sons on the earth’.

Shivagnaman: Thank you dear Alok sir. You are absolutely right. I agree with you. Can we say domination of one over the other?
It can be person or country?

Alok: For sure; the domination! Be it a person or a state or a country. When one seizes the opportunity for other to thrive freely, this is what we mean by colonialization. (personal opinion)

Nibash: Well the topic for today’s discussion is very very important for these days’ study, however, at the outset we must differentiate the meaning of colonial and post-colonial literature. Colonial literature was a study about how oppressed and oppressors behaved and reacted to each other. It was the time when our country was dominated by the British and due to their domination we had to lose our own tradition, culture, rituals etc because British didn’t accept our stuff as a standard of human being and they wanted to impose their tradition, religion, rituals etc in the name of God. Though their sole aim behind it was to spread their religion all over the world and being hypnotized some of our country people went to foreign to learn English and their culture though they all the time had been ashamed by the British, and this is how the features like Diaspora, Others etc came. Post- colonial literature:- it was the time after the end of colonial rule when most of the educated persons of our own country rivaled against Englishmen because they at first didn’t accept the writing style of our people and their writing were not accepted to be published because their writing was about exploring and retrieving the literature, rituals, beliefs and etc that were lost in the during domination of British.

Shivagnaman: In the history, there are two world wars. Everyone is aware of this. First world war between 1914-1918 and second 1939-1945. What does the word “World War” mean? This is a big question. Whether all the countries were involved in world wars? No, not all, only the most powerful countries. Then how can it be called as a world war?
What an Irony of “world war?⁠
It simply denotes the domination, doesn’t it?

Rahul (junior): Yes Shiva, it simply denotes the domination between the two groups of countries as United nations and soviet Sangh.

Shivagnaman: Thank you Mr.Rahul. To that extent Europe….
Well said Nibash. In the name of civilisation, western cultures were being imposed in India and other countries too. Whatever the culture the western countries have, they were considered as the superior. Indians were considered as uncivilised by the Western countries. They called barbarians, snake charmers, savages to mean uncivilised…

Rahul (junior): The post-colonial discourse may be traced back to the publication of Frantz Fanons’ works in the early fifties. Frantz Fanon was a psychologist who studied Algerian freedom struggle and interpreted it in terms of the primary concepts of post-colonialism . His training is psychology helped him to define the mental states of both the colonizer and the colonized. Post-colonialism is an extensive study of the imperialist politics in the light of which the critics and scholars tried to understand the life of colonies in Asia and Africa in greater detail. It was Frantz Fanon who was the first to suggest that colonization was not only a capture of territory but also a colonization of the psyche . By this, he meant the arsenal of complexes- the feeling of inferiority created by the experience of having been colonially marginalized and oppressed. After a country was colonized there occurred a wholesale change in the mindset of its people.

Mehzbeen: Reading the following discussion, my saying goes as: Postcolonialism is a disciplinary and an interdisciplinary methodology grounded in Post-Structuralist and Post-Modern critique. As a discipline it focused on Colonialism and Imperialism (until the independence) and its major area was to throw light on Hybridity, race, sex, culture, transculture, gender and many other form of societies.

Rahul (junior): People suffered constantly from a feeling of mental and physical resources to tackle any personal or social issue. A foreign law or social code made them strangers to their own surroundings and filled their mind with irremediable fear. It was this attitude of fear and helplessness that paralyzed them for a long time till a group of leaders emerged to challenge the foreign power and mobilized the common people to fight for independence.
Yes Mehzbeen, the main idea was to differentiate between two societies on the basis of their beliefs on their religion, race , sex, culture and gender. The superiority of colonizers over the colonized.

Mehzbeen: Absolutely Rahul! To show the so-called Shrewd Dominance and to live up the air high superiority.

Rahul (junior): Edward Said’s work “Orientalism” defined Orientalism as a western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the orient. Said’s insights have led to a more comprehensive study of creative writing in colonies in which tendencies of alienation from the native culture have been identified.

Sanjay: Well, let’s now focus on postcolonial literature and art. Let’s discuss how the literature of both the colonized nation and colonisers’ nation got affected by these years of turmoil. Yes, social turmoil was there, but how or in what ways literature of those colonised nations tried to get back the lost space through their creative art?
The main characteristic of post-colonial literature is to get back space and place in that the Western literature never provided. It’s an attempt to reclaim their position in the field of literature. When the people lost what was their actual “Home”, the feeling of alienation from the surroundings found a voice in the literature and their mind preoccupied with counteracting to make a connection between the “new” culture and the “traditional” one. The Postcolonial literature also tries to break the western thoughts that projected the native traditional culture in western narratives as “Indigenous” or “uncultured” one. This way the Postcolonial literature tries to validate and firmly assert the richness of the so-called “Indigenous” culture of the colonized nations which was earlier degraded under colonialism.

Sanjay: (quoting Rahul’s remark about the suffering of people) In this regard, I want to say in the Post colonial literature this “paralysed” state of existence was replaced by the willful resubmission of the native traditional culture and the writers tried to get back the due respect and acknowledgement from the west about the richness of the traditional culture. Moreover, the English language too was one of the many aspects to be looked into. Many writers of these colonized nations chose to write in the “colonizer’s tongue”. African writers like Chinua Achebe, believe that as once the colonizers colonized their native land, same way writers of the colonized nations must colonize the English language itself. Same was with Arundhati Roy when she molded the English language and played with it to deliberately show her mastery of the language, in another way “colonizing” the language. That’s why in the writings of many African and South East Asian writers, we see local words infused with traditional customs and traditions, that show how the language itself was colonized by the Post-Colonial writers from the then colonized nations.

Shivagnaman: Wole Soyinka too comes in the list… Many points were cull out from the above discussions.
Good job dear all. (Sanjay affirms with a positive nod about Wole Soyinka)

Shivagnaman: The term “Postcolonial” conveys different meanings from different intellectuals.
“The Empire Writes Back ” published in 1989 is very famous. Few lines from the book:
“We use the term postcolonial to cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day. This is because there is a continuity of preoccupation throughout the historical process initiated by European imperial aggression”

Europeans were the ones who dominated the most part of the world. They consider themselves as superior to all…

Alok: Great info Shiva! Just had a talk with Rahul and he raised the issues discussed in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. That’s also a classic example of colonial literature.
True, we had a chance to see the diverse opinions about our topic of discussion today! Great to see the energy in the participants.

Sanjay: True, “Things Fall Apart” is a great example of colonial literature, even Thiongo’s drama “Trial of the Dedan Kimathi”. Last but not the list, the Literary forms and structures too lost its place in the Post colonial era, and were moulded and reworked in the hands of the post colonial writers of the colonized nation. Writers like Orhan Pamuk and Arundhati Roy played with the structure and narrative of novels. They tried to inject and infuse the local or native traditions into the structures. If for Pamuk it was the miniature painting tradition in Turkey played a huge influence, for Arundhati the Indian oral tradition of storytelling played a crucial role in her novels.

Dr. Mamta: (quoting Alok’s comments about the instances of colonialism in Greek myths) Alok ji can you give examples if colonialism from Greeks?
(Quoting Shivagnaman’s elaborations on the term postcolonial) I think with Shiva. But only one meaning which you elaborated.

Shivagnaman: Good observation.
Many writers have given their opinions but I shared only one as you mentioned.
Other writers such as Rushdie in “Imaginary Homeland “, Arnold. , Ruskin, Carlyle, Newman, Eliot and also writers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Africa have given different opinion from their perspectives. Maybe same problem but their sufferings various….
Am I on the right track?

Alok: (answering Dr. Mamta’s question) Dr. Mamta, I have already pointed out. Just look at the character of Zeus. He was a God with so many sons on the earth! Whenever he wished, he could get on the earth and fulfil his ‘desires’.

Shivagnaman: Most commonwealth countries share the problem. Mr.Alok small clarification…
Can we consider commonwealth literature as a part of it?

Alok: Not exactly, Shiva. We can’t say that entire Commonwealth literature is a part of it. But yes, many literary productions are part of it from the Commonwealth literature.

Shivagnaman: Thank you Mr. Alok. Through poetry many writers expressed their feelings of colonization through language.
As one of our friends mentioned above “English Language” also one of the way of domination. Here I would like to quote lines from Kamala Das:

“Why not let me speak in Any language I like?
The language I speak becomes mine, it’s distortions, it’s queerness
All mine, mine alone”
(An Introduction)

Sheela: Wole Soyinka portrays the YORUBA tradition in a picturesque style in his works like Dance in the Forest… He also bring out G. M. Hopkins sprung rhythm in his work he clearly describes the male chauvinism in his work…. African literature blooms in the year of 1960 are notable one.

Shivagnaman: Additional information about Wole Soyinka:
He was awarded Nobel Prize for Literate in 1986. “it is the first Nobel Prize awarded to an African writer or to any writer from the ‘new literatures’ in English that have emerged in the former colonies of the British Empire.”

Sheela: Colonialism bred an innate arrogance, but when you undertake that sort of imperial adventure, that arrogance gives way to a feeling of accommodativeness. You take pride in your openness.
–Prof. Wole Soyinka

Dr. Mamta: The term ‘colonial’ came out from imperialism and the writers who were writing in the colonies of England are called colonial writers. That’s the reason Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Edward Said etc are colonial writers.

Shivagnaman: If anyone could share or discuss Indian writers… It would nice… What is the impact of colonization in India?

Dr. Mamta: Colonials are Mulk raj anand ,R K Narayan, Sarojini Naidu Rabindra Nath Tagore.

Rahul (junior): There has been a deep subversive impact of the imperial power on the social and cultural lives of the colonies. The imperial power not only conquered a territory, it sought to enslave the mind of the colonial subjects. Through its educational and employment programs, the imperial power tried to further enslave the mind of the subjects. Though struggles for independence started in every colony it took a long time for the colonies to achieve the goal. The spread of education did contribute to the growth of literary activities in colonies but the writing did not fully support the native cultural and moral values, resulting in prejudices and conflicts of various kinds that continue to prevail till today.
There are some writers whose writings may be better examples to evaluate the post-colonial influence. Rabindranath Tagore who is known as a poet of the Bengali landscape with a definite mystic outlook.But in his prose writings (short stories and novels) he portrayed the Bengali society and gave voice also to the patriotic aspirations of the Indian populace. This latter area of Tagore’s writings has a post-colonial nature. He brings out the sufferings of women and children , the pressures of the British rule on society makes us see clearly how the British rule has stifled the native ethos , broken the traditional values and led to a conflict of interest within the Indian psyche. His poems where the man is without fear(35/6 sermon) is part of Gitanjali, Tagore sums up the idea of independence in this short poem. He wants to satisfy not only with mere political independence, he wants mental and spiritual independence also. I mentioned about it with Alok sir and he highlighted these things as mental and spiritual independence.⁠⁠⁠⁠
As I studied in my graduation (Untouchable) and nowadays in postgraduate (coolie) I found in the novels of Mulk Raj Anand he shows how the presence of European rulers helped India free itself from some of the old social problems like Caste,Purdah system,educational backwardness but put India into a condition of slavery where even educated man and women have failed in thinking independently about their lives . If we take an example of Bakha, the protagonist of untouchable, a little progressive and assertive in his outcaste it is because of his association with the British regiment in Jalandhar. He prefers to cover himself with a blanket, smokes cigarettes and plays hockey and can think . On the other hand in coolie Anand paints the vices of the English tea-state owners, their lecherous lives and their thinkings.

Shivagnaman: Thank you Mr.Rahul. really valid points were explained. Good job.

Dr. Mamta: Anita Desai, Shashi Desh Pandey, Nirad C Chaudhry, Arundhati Roy, Vijay Tendulkar Mahesh Dattani, Kamla Das, Kamla Markendeya, Jayant Mahapatra. etc are post colonial writers.

Alok: That was a very informative and useful discussion yesterday. I hope many students will be benefited by the inputs that we have seen in our discussion. Thank you all for an active participation! (concluding remarks)