Narrative ethics in postcolonial fiction
When considering the ethico-political task of postcolonial criticism Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak claims that "ethics is the experience of the impossible, " and that "deconstruction cannot form a political program of any kind. " Both these ideas motivate the central question of this thesis: if ethics is an experience of the impossible and deconstruction cannot form a political program, can we produce an ethical critique that radically considers the narrative representation of violent oppression within different postcolonial cultures and histories? This question will be addressed via four modes of enquiry: 1) By considering the current role of deconstruction within postcolonial criticism and asking whether deconstruction is a concept of writing that can be incorporated into reading strategies which intend to identify an ethics within writing; 2) by examining recent critical investigations into the idea that literary-linguistic structures themselves have ethical characteristics, and asking whether it is possible to identify an ethics within the structure of certain postcolonial fictions; 3) by investigating the representation of violence and physical oppression intrinsic to these fictions, and asking how the inscription of that violence affects their narrative structures; and, 4) by arguing that the representation of the postcolonial body in pain not only affects the structures of the narratives considered, but also plays a vital role in the radical ethics of that fiction. This last concern is initiated by Elaine Scarry's claim that pain itself remains utterly resistant to language. These enquiries will be made alongside critical examinations of twelve international postcolonial novels and their narrative structures. In doing so this thesis will ask whether it is possible to identify a radical ethics of fiction that is common to various postcolonial cultures, rather than a discursively informed ethics that is culturally or historically specific.