Post-Colonial Criticism: Cherry-Picking Evidence?

At The Valve they're discussing whether post-colonial criticism "assumes its conclusions even before it begins."

The responses so far seem to amount to "yeah, so what?" But lots of interesting variants of that. Several, for instance, are making the valid point that this is what all criticism (and in fact all scholarship) does. There's also the point that:

If *all* postcolonial criticism means is to locate effects of
imperialism in culture, then we clearly have no conclusions to begin
with.  We simply have objects of study.  I don’t think it’s a
controversial idea to be open to possible connections between a major
historical process and the art that emerged during that process.

As a worthwhile offshoot of this conversation, Andrew Seal discusses Said's reading of Austen, from a postcolonial perspective:

It's curious to read Persuasion in the light of the (in)famous Said reading of Mansfield Park in his Culture and Imperialism.
Said pointed out the Bertram family's Antigua plantation was a sort of
enabling fiction, sustaining the family's fortunes and thus making the
action of the novel possible in a very real way. Said focused in
particular on a casual exchange between Fanny Price and Sir Thomas
about the plantation, drawing some fairly broad conclusions. A number
of critics (and likely a number of readers) have taken issue with
Said's rough handling of Austen and with the implication that Austen
was just one more lackey of the slave trade and British imperial
oppression more generally.

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Picking on Vollmann Thanks to the glory of Google cache, you too can read Lee Siegel’s takedown of Vollmann and The Royal Family, first published in The New...
  2. Photography Criticism This is a nice essay on photography criticism. The great exception to all this is photography criticism. There, you will hear precious little talk of...
  3. Buddenbrooks: A Post-War and Peace Novel While we're reading Buddenbrooks, I think it will be useful to consider the book as a sort of work written in the tradition of War...
  4. Chad Post on the Morality of Publishing Chad writes: There’s something that’s been nagging at me ever since I read this article . . . I’m not sure I can properly articulate...
  5. More Evidence Whatever his virtues, Christopher Hitchens just isn’t a very good lit critic....

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

2 Comments

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

I think in the quote from Seal you see the most common reaction to postcolonial criticism, which is a defensive one. It’s fair to be defensive, if you believe that in finding colonial meta-texts in Austen, for example, Said was also arguing for her irrelevancy.
I’d argue exactly the opposite though: I believe Said chose Austen as an example of a canonical author whose merit is beyond question in order to solidify his case for the process being not peripheral to the culture but central, a key element of historical premise that makes certain fictional narratives possible.
I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that postcolonial authors begin with a conclusion. Said begins with the reality of a colonized nation — in his case, Palestine — and works to discover the processes that make colonialism possible.

Note that Andrew Seal’s post also appeared here: http://www.blographia-literaria.com/2009/04/of-postcolonial-persuasion.html
I made the same point Daniel did in a comment there. Andrew made it clearer in a reply that he does not hold the defensive view, but describing it.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2015. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.