On Postcolonial Authors Braschi, Coetzee, and Rushdie

United States of Banana (2011), Elizabeth Costello (2003) et Fury (2001) : portrait de l’écrivain en « mauvais sujet » de la mondialisation

Madelena Gonzalez, University of Avignon, France

http://ebc.revues.org/1279

Keywords :

aesthetics, capitalism, globalisation, hybridity, ideology, interpellation, Künstlerroman, Postcolonialism, resistance, sublime

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1 With the rise of globalisation studies in academia, notably in the social sciences and economics, Postcolonialism and its reliance on alterity and hybridity is starting to seem out of synch with the generalised cultural homogenisation that results from the global expansion of capital. For some, the current state of affairs is merely a continuation of colonialism by other means, thus allowing for the continuation of the postcolonial paradigm, while for others, the necessity for a ‘new cartography’ is palpable and urgent (Hardt and Negri 92). Postcolonialism, as its name suggests, constructed itself in relation to colonisation and on the back of the disillusionment with the failure of nationalism, hence its fear of essentialism and the Enlightenment project, but the globalised era has ushered in new, more insidious and ambivalent forms of economic imperialism as well as a new epoch of post-nationalism, which may be couched in the form of the reinvigorated internationalism of a traditional Marxist cast or be closer to Hardt and Negri’s utopian vision of ‘global citizenship’ (92). Even if both phenomena are situated historically, neither can be glibly assimilated to the postcolonial as we know it to date.

2 In the field of literary criticism and the study of fiction, there is a time lag in relation to this new state of affairs. The postcolonial label is still persistently and systematically applied to certain writers seen as representative of its main tropes, for both ethnic and aesthetic reasons, although a clear definition of the postcolonial aesthetic has yet to arise. Rushdie’s work is celebrated, above all, for its hybridity and migrant sensibility, thanks to Homi Bhabha’s now canonical essay, The Location of Culture (1994). As for Coetzee, he is grouped with writers such as Margaret Atwood and Peter Carey, who are members of white settler communities within colonised countries and thus apparently constituted by the conflicting relations between coloniser and colonised that obtain within those colonies. The work of Braschi, a Porto-Rican living in New York, would seem to fulfil the necessary criteria of biculturalism, bilingualism, migrancy, hybridity, required for gaining entry into the postcolonial canon. Indeed the recent panel session dedicated to her latest novel at the MLA in January 2013 had recourse to this familiar paradigm.

3 It is only a short step from appellation to interpellation and Braschi, Coetzee and Rushdie appear to inhabit a space hotly contested by both high Postcolonial Studies and the world book industry which exists within the new paradigm of global culture or what Wallerstein and other analysts have classed as the world capitalist system. This double interpellation affects their performance as writers but also that of readers of their work. These three novels are seemingly ideally poised for analysis within existing critical parameters, but obstinately refuse to conform to the protocols laid out for them.

4 I will focus briefly on three different aspects of the novels, which seem particularly relevant to my hypothesis of a poetics of resistance and refusal: first the return to form and style as a way of reasserting control over the novel as artefact, secondly the artist figure as ‘bad subject’ declining to occupy the role assigned to him within globalisation and, finally, the emphasis on the creative imagination, as a source of agency and transformative power, locked in battle with the hyperreal simulacrum of the technoverse and obliged to seek out a compromise with mimesis and rationality in order to reaffirm real emotion via the expression of an ethical universal.

Madelena Gonzalez

Madelena Gonzalez is Professor of Anglophone Literature at the University of Avignon. Her recent publications include Generic Instability and Identity in the Contemporary Novel (2010), Authenticity and Legitimacy in Minority Theatre: Constructing Identity (2010) and Minority Theatre on the Global Stage: Challenging Paradigms from the Margins (2012). She has published widely on contemporary literature and culture and is currently in charge of the Avignon-based, interdisciplinary research team, ‘Cultural Identity, Texts, and Theatricality’ (ICTT, ÉA 4277).

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