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Postcolonial Literature

Dave Gunning

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Introduces postcolonial literary studies through close readings of a wide range of fiction and poetry

This guide places the literary works themselves at the centre of its discussions, examining how writers from Africa, Australasia, the Caribbean, Canada, Ireland, and South Asia have engaged with the challenges that beset postcolonial societies. Dave Gunning discusses many of the most-studied works of postcolonial literature, from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, as well as works by more recent writers like Chris Abani, Tahmima Anam and Shani Mootoo. Each chapter explores a key theme through drawing together works from various times and places. The book concludes with an extensive guide to further reading and tips on how to write about postcolonial literature successfully.

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Series Preface



Some Omissions

Colonial Spaces and Colonial Ideologies

General Categories and Specific Cases

Possible Unities and the Use of Theory

About this Book

Chapter One: Finding a Voice

Macaulay’s Minute

Trading with Tradition: Derek Walcott

Where Language is Concealed: Eavan Boland

The Empire Writes Back

Very Indian English: Nissim Ezekiel

The Language of the African Novel: Ngũgĩ and Achebe

The Palm-oil with which Words are Eaten: Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Rotten English: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy

Mongrels and Silence: Keri Hulme, The Bone People


Chapter Two: The Need to Belong

From Terra Nullius to the Mabo Decision

In the Interior: Patrick White, Voss

Immemorial and Recent: Les Murray

The Time of the Nation and the Space of the People

Claiming the City: Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners

Hating the Place you Love: James Berry, Windrush Songs

New Beginnings and Responsibilities: J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace


Chapter Three: Coming of Age, Coming into Difference

National Allegory

A Shadow of the Nation: Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry

In Two Minorities: Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy

Natural and Ethical Behaviour: Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night

Trapped: Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

Inheritance and Accidents: Zadie Smith, White Teeth


Chapter Four: Communities, Values, Transgressions

Learning to Listen: Nadine Gordimer, Burger’s Daughter

Avoiding Historical Pitfalls: Thomas King, Truth and Bright Water

Motes in the Eye of History: Diaspora Space

How Newness Enters the World: Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

The Rushdie Affair and the Umma

Faith with and without Agency: Leila Aboulela, Minaret

Nostalgia and Resistance: Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Chapter Five: War Zones

Frantz Fanon and the Cleansing Power of Violence

Ghosts from the Future: V. S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River

True Nationalism: Tahmima Anam, A Golden Age

A Ban on Wreaths: Agha Shahid Ali, The Country Without a Post Office

States of Exception, Biopolitics and Necropolitics

A Duty to Stay Alive: Chris Abani, ‘Buffalo Women’

Giving Your Life for the Truth: Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost


Chapter Six: Challenging Histories

A Scab on the Wounds of History: Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day

Squaring History’s Books: Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Can the Subaltern Speak?

Made Noble in the Fire: Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang

The Sort of Secrets you Could Use: Sally Morgan, My Place

Beyond the Mesmeric Power of Tradition: The Black Atlantic

Not Going Home: Caryl Phillips, The Atlantic Sound

A Terror of Symbols: Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land



Student Resources

Guide to Further Reading

Writing about Postcolonial Literature


About the Author

Dave Gunning lectures in contemporary literature at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is the author of Race and Antiracism in Black British and British Asian Literature (Liverpool University Press, 2010).

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