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The Cambridge Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English


  • Page extent: 306 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.58 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 820.9
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PR9080 .I55 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Commonwealth literature (English)--History and criticism
    • Postcolonialism in literature
    • Colonies in literature

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521833400)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published November 2007

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$99.00 (P)

The Cambridge Introduction to

Postcolonial Literatures in English

The past century has witnessed an extraordinary flowering of fiction, poetry and drama from countries previously colonised by Britain, an output which has changed the map of English literature. This introduction, from a leading figure in the field, explores a wide range of Anglophone postcolonial writing from Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, India, Ireland and Britain. Lyn Innes compares the ways in which authors shape communal identities and interrogate the values and representations of peoples in newly independent nations. Placing its emphasis on literary rather than theoretical texts, this book offers detailed discussion of many internationally renowned authors, including Chinua Achebe, James Joyce, Les Murray, Salman Rushdie and Derek Walcott. It also includes historical surveys of the main countries discussed, a glossary, and biographical notes on major authors. Lyn Innes provides a rich and subtle guide to an array of authors and texts from a wide range of sites.

C. L. Innes is Emeritus Professor of Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Kent. She is the author of, among other books, A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain (Cambridge, 2002).

Cambridge Introductions to Literature

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Accessible and lively, these introductions will also appeal to readers who
want to broaden their understanding of the books and authors they enjoy.

*Ideal for students, teachers, and lecturers

*Concise, yet packed with essential information

*Key suggestions for further reading

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John Xiros Cooper The Cambridge Introduction to T. S. Eliot

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Gregg Crane The Cambridge Introduction to The Nineteenth-Century American Novel

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Jane Goldman The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf

Kevin J. Hayes The Cambridge Introduction to Herman Melville

Nancy Henry The Cambridge Introduction to George Eliot

David Holdeman The Cambridge Introduction to W. B. Yeats

C. L. Innes The Cambridge Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English

M. Jimmie Killingsworth The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman

Pericles Lewis The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism

Ronan McDonald The Cambridge Introduction to Samuel Beckett

Wendy Martin The Cambridge Introduction to Emily Dickinson

Peter Messent The Cambridge Introduction to Mark Twain

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Ira Nadel The Cambridge Introduction to Ezra Pound

Leland S. Person The Cambridge Introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne

John Peters The Cambridge Introduction to Joseph Conrad

Sarah Robbins The Cambridge Introduction to Harriet Beecher Stowe

Martin Scofield The Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story

Emma Smith The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare

Peter Thomson The Cambridge Introduction to English Theatre, 1660–1900

Janet Todd The Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen

The Cambridge Introduction to

Postcolonial Literatures
in English


Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© C. L. Innes 2007

This publicaion is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Innes, Catherine Lynette.
The Cambridge introduction to postcolonial literatures in English / C. L. Innes.
p. cm. -- (Cambridge introductions to literature)
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-521-83340-0 (hardback) -- ISBN 978-0-521-54101-5 (pbk.)
1. Commonwealth literature (English) -- History and criticism. 2. Postcolonialism
in literature. 3. Colonies in literature. I. Title. II. Series
PR9080. I55 2007


ISBN 978-0-521-83340-0 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-54101-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Preface   page vii
Chapter 1   Introduction: situating the postcolonial 1
Chapter 2   Postcolonial issues in performance 19
Chapter 3   Alternative histories and writing back 37
Chapter 4   Authorizing the self: postcolonial autobiographical writing 56
Chapter 5   Situating the self: landscape and place 72
Chapter 6   Appropriating the word: language and voice 97
Chapter 7   Narrating the nation: form and genre 119
Chapter 8   Rewriting her story: nation and gender 137
Chapter 9   Rewriting the nation: acknowledging economic and cultural diversity 161
Chapter 10   Transnational and black British writing: colonizing in reverse 177
Chapter 11   Citizens of the world: reading postcolonial literature 197
  Notes 209
  Glossary of terms used (compiled by Kaori Nagai) 233
  Biographies of selected postcolonial writers (compiled by Kaori Nagai) 242
  Brief colonial histories: Australia, the Caribbean, East Africa, India and Pakistan, Ireland, West Africa (compiled by Kaori Nagai) 265
  Select bibliography 274
  Index 289


This book sets out to consider some of the writing that has emerged during the past century from the numerous and complex range of postcolonial societies which were formerly part of the British Empire. It seeks not only to discuss the authors and texts, but also to raise questions about the ways in which they have been thought about under the aegis of postcolonial studies, and to ask what varying meanings postcolonial literature may have in different contexts.

   In the first decades of the twentieth century, European states governed more than 80 per cent of the world’s territories and people. Of these the British Empire was the most extensive and powerful, claiming as British subjects a population of between 470 and 570 million people, approximately 25 per cent of the world’s population, and laying claim to more than ninety territories in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Australasia and the Pacific. Almost all those territories have now evolved and/or combined into independent states, fifty-three of which constitute the ‘British’ Commonwealth, a voluntary organization which several former colonies such as Burma, Egypt, Ireland, and Iraq declined to join when they gained independence.1 To a greater or lesser degree, all these territories shared a history of cultural colonialism, including the imposition of the English language, and British educational, political and religious institutions, as well as economic relationships and systems.

   Within the context of postcolonial writing, critics have often quoted Caliban’s retort to Prospero in The Tempest: ‘You gave me language, and my profit on’t / Is I know how to curse.’2 Perhaps less frequently quoted, but even more significant, are the lines which display Caliban’s eloquence (in the English language) when it comes to describing the island Prospero has taken from him, with a combination of force, magic and the seductions of new learning:

      zBe not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
      Sounds and sweet airs, that delight and hurt not.
      Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments
      Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices3

As George Lamming commented, ‘Prospero had given Caliban Language; and with it an unstated history of consequences, and unknown history of future intentions.’4

   Thus one major and unintended consequence of British colonialism has been an enormous flowering of literature in English by postcolonial authors, presenting the story of colonialism and its consequences from their perspective, and reclaiming their land and experience through fiction, drama and poetry, a representation and reclamation requiring a reinvention of the English language and English literary traditions.

   This book cannot attempt to encompass the many literary texts and cultures that are an important feature of the anglophone postcolonial world. Even to try to acknowledge half of those ninety territories or former colonies would result in superficial lists of authors and a blurring of the qualities and issues specific to different colonial and postcolonial histories and cultural contexts. Hence, although there will be occasional reference to writers from other countries such as Canada, the Republic of South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, this book will concentrate on works from just a few former colonies, chosen as examples of particular kinds of colonial and postcolonial structures and traditions. These include Ireland, as England’s oldest colony and the testing ground for many of her later colonial policies. More importantly for this study, Ireland’s literary revival is acknowledged by many postcolonial writers in other countries as a model for their own construction of a national literature. In addition to Ireland, I have chosen India and West Africa (specifically Ghana and Nigeria) as examples of former colonies administered by indirect rule but with very different indigenous cultures. Kenya and Tanzania, with their varied indigenous populations together with a history of white settlement and occupation of farming land, as well as immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, provide examples of settler colonies in Africa with a multicultural history and population. Australia represents a predominantly white settler colony and postcolony whose identity involves not only two centuries of development and attachment to a natural world perceived as almost the reverse of Britain’s, but also its origins as a convict settlement, and its history of brutal dispossession of the continent’s Aboriginal peoples. The Caribbean islands of Jamaica, St Lucia and Trinidad provide histories of enforced immigration, enslavement and acculturation, where original languages and traditions were either submerged and/or masked and transformed. Finally, the diasporic communities in contemporary Britain from former colonies provide another point of departure for contrast and comparison with Caribbean and other multicultural or intercultural societies. An Appendix provides brief histories of the selected areas to help orient readers.

   These histories have been compiled with considerable assistance from Dr Kaori Nagai, whose careful research and keen intelligence have also contributed to the biographical entries for the main authors discussed, and the glossary of terms. I also wish to acknowledge the contributions of many undergraduate and postgraduate students at Tuskegee Institute, Cornell University, the University of Massachussets, and the University of Kent, whose varied enthusiasms and questions have informed my teaching and writing over the years. This book has benefited from insights and new material brought to my attention by former postgraduate students and I wish particularly to acknowledge Maggie Bowers, Sarah Chetin, Paul Delaney, Eugene McNulty, Kaori Nagai, Elodie Rousselot, Florian Stadtler, Amy Smith, Mark Stein, Monica Turci, and Anastasia Vassalopoulos. Past and present colleagues at the University of Kent and elsewhere to whom I owe a particular debt include Samuel Allen, Ashok Bery, Elleke Boehmer, Denise deCaires Narain, Rod Edmond, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Louis James, Declan Kiberd, Susheila Nasta, Stephanie Newell, Caroline Rooney, Joe Skerrett, Angela Smith, Dennis Walder and my husband, Martin Scofield. Tobias Doring’s thoughtful comments on the draft manuscript have been exceptionally helpful, as have been his own publications.

   Sections of this book have appeared previously in different versions as journal essays or chapters in books. Since they first appeared, they have been considerably revised, updated and elaborated within different contexts. I acknowledge their publication in earlier form and express my thanks to the editors and publishers of the following:

   Howard Booth and Nigel Rigby, eds., Modernism and Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).

   Clara A. B. Joseph and Janet Wilson, eds., Global Fissures: Postcolonial Fusions (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2006).

Tobias Döring, ed., A History of Postcolonial Fiction in Twelve and a Half Books (Trier: WVT, Wiss. Verl. Trier, 2006)

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