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Title: Postcolonial melancholia : theory, interpretation and the novel
Author: Sorensen, Eli Park
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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In my doctoral dissertation, I discuss and explore notions of the literary and literary form in postcolonial studies. Beginning with a focus on recent expressions of unease about the theoretical paradigms through which the postcolonial perspective responds to literary texts, I discuss the emergence of what I call postcolonial melancholia, an atmosphere induced by the increased institutionalisation in academia in recent years. Using Freud's notion of melancholia, as a form of ghostly identification with an absent object, I explore what leading critics have seen as a loss of contemporary postcolonial criticality, and which I see as intimately related to the problematic ways in which the dimension of the literary has been used. In the second part of my dissertation, I analyse and discuss various literary strategies as formulated in three formally different postcolonial novels---Ousmane Sembene's Xala, J.M. Coetzee's Foe, and Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance---in order to map the contradictions, limitations but also possibilities of novelistic representation in postcolonial space. My overall critical perspective will be informed by the works of Georg Lukacs, and in particular his notion of a utopian-interpretive realist ideal, developed in the early work Theory of the Novel. My argument is that this utopian-interpretive realist ideal can also be seen as a particularly useful notion in connection with what I see as the literary dimension in many postcolonial novels, as it is situated in between complex socio-political agendas and aesthetic-representational problematics. Lukacs's formal-literary ideal is repeated in his later writings on realism from the thirties, but notably in a transfigured way---as an extra-literary, authoritative norm. The dynamic of this trajectory, one that moves from idealism to dogmatism, can (with certain modifications) be seen as similar to the development of the field of postcolonial critical discourse---moving from an early, idealistic beginning, to an increasingly dogmatic, prescriptive and authoritarian academic discourse. By using the trajectory of Lukacs's realist ideal as a comparative background, I attempt explore alternative ways of conceiving postcolonial literariness ways that may help the field of postcolonial studies to come to terms with what I see as the symptom of postcolonial melancholia, haunting the contemporary discipline.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available