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Title: Contemporary postcolonial literature, reader-response, and reception studies
Author: Toth, Hayley Georgia
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 6777
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores the reading and reception of contemporary postcolonial literatures. It develops an innovative theory of reading postcolonial literatures, which views reading as dialectically material and textual, as affective, and as ethical and political. This theory democratises the reading of postcolonial literatures. It legitimises a greater variety of reading-positions as compatible with postcolonialism, as a project of contesting the material and epistemic legacies of empire. It also accounts for readings which are not postcolonial. The thesis proceeds to place this theory of reading in conversation with actual responses to contemporary postcolonial literatures, recorded in world media, critical studies, personal blogs, and the social media platforms Amazon UK and Goodreads. I focus specifically on the reception of The Satanic Verses (1988), A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007), and Harare North (2009). By testing and refining my theory of reading in these three reception studies, this thesis draws three main conclusions about reading. First, reading is intrinsically hybrid, conditioned by intersecting material and textual activities. Second, reading is essentially diverse and never wholly determined in advance by material, institutional, cultural, religious, geopolitical, or national associations. Third, and finally, reading is a form of non-understanding. This thesis therefore works against postcolonial scholars’ prescription of more and more ideal readings. Its sustained theoretical and empirical engagement with actual reading in fact makes clear that postcolonialists’ purported textualist or materialist reading-positions are essentially comfortable fictions that deny the hybridity of reading. This thesis also intervenes in postcolonial scholars’ tendency to uncritically denigrate ‘Western’, ‘European’, or non-professional readers as incapable of reading and realising postcolonial literatures. There is no coherent ‘Western’ (or, for that matter, ‘Muslim,’ or ‘Chinese,’ or ‘African’) way of reading. Moreover, the non-professional readings considered here repeatedly demonstrate such readers’ capacity for (self-)critical insight.
Supervisor: Nicholls, Brendon Sponsor: University of Leeds
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available