Rewriting history : postmodern and postcolonial negotiations in the fiction of J.G. Farrell, Timothy Mo, Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie
This thesis is a study of the rewriting of history in the work of four novelists: J. G. Farrell, Timothy Mo, Kazuo Ishiguro and Salman Rushdie. I argue that their work occupies a particular position that is both within contemporary British fiction, yet at one remove from it. Their work is situated within the context of critiques of history that are the source of a conflict between postmodernism and postcolonialism. I suggest that each writer engages with postmodemist aesthetics often in an attempt to produce critical histones that bear witness to the voices of those hitherto silenced in conventional historiography. However, these novelists remain anxious as to the potential consequences of mobilising postmodernist models of history, particularly as to the problems this creates concerning historical reference. The thesis aims to identify the range of related attitudes to postmodernist critiques of history at this particular juncture of contemporary fiction in English. I approach the specific position of the novelists under study through Homi Bhabha's work on the confluence of the postmodern and the postcolonial, focusing in particular on his suggestion that the postmodem refutation of Western epistemology enables a postcolonial space where a new range of histories emerge. Because each writer works between at least two cultures, and primarily within Britain, they negotiate from within received epistemology in an attempt to locate a space at its boundaries where conventional forms of knowledge no longer have efficacy. However, in contrast to Bhabha, these writers struggle to reach this space and remain sceptical as to the usefulness of postmodernism in making available new forms of historiography. Ultimately, their work enables a critique of current ways of theorising the relationship between the postmodem and the postcolonial in literary studies.