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Postcolonial criticism in the era of globalization.

Aravamudan, Srinivas. Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. x + 424 pp. $59.95 cloth; $20.95 paper.

Bongie, Chris. Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. vi + 543 pp. $65.00 cloth; $24.95 paper.

Hogan, Patrick Colm. Colonialism and Cultural Identity: Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000. xix + 353 pp. $20.95 paper.

Van Boheemen-Saaf, Christine. Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative, and Postcolonialism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. x + 227 pp. $59.95.

Are postcolonial studies obsolete? Is the "postcolonial," legacy of decolonization and of the anti-war and anti-imperialist movements of the mid- and late-twentieth century, a dead letter in the current climate? It might appear that the "postcolonial," residue of an earlier moment, has been left behind in a critical turn toward notions of globalization that follow, themselves, in the wake of the political and cultural globalization with which the twenty-first century is preoccupied. (1) Yet, as the books reviewed in this essay demonstrate, terms such as "postcolonial" or "postcoloniality" are still generative, capable of provoking us to think in fruitful ways about literature and culture and, for that matter, about politics and economics as well. David Chioni Moore offers a compelling argument about the utility of the "postcolonial" in a special issue of PMLA devoted to "Globalizing Literary Studies." In "Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique," Moore addresses two "striking" silences. Postcolonial studies, he suggests, have almost entirely ignored regions once subject to the Russo-Soviet empire, while "the useful if by no means perfect postcolonial terms developed by scholars of. say, Indonesia and Gabon" rarely animate the work of scholars of the "former Soviet sphere" (115).

Moore argues convincingly for the "postcolonial" status of lands once ruled by Russia, or later, the Soviet Union, and indeed for almost all of the contemporary world; but, acknowledging that "when terms expand their scope they risk losing analytic force" (123), he also wonders whether the meaning and concomitant explanatory power of the term "postcolonial" are threatened by its worldwide application. Moore answers his own caveat by urging that the term "postcolonial" be used not as a touchstone for judging whether a particular place is or is not postcolonial, but rather as a hermeneutic category such as race, class, caste, age, and gender--to which we might add nationality, sexuality--that helps us to understand what he calls "world identities" (124). In other words, Moore suggests that we treat "postcolonial" not as a static descriptor of a "condition" either absent or present, but as a tool for prying loose meanings. The books discussed in this review represent a range of strategies whereby a postcolonial hermeneutic is brought to bear on cultural contexts both contemporary (chronologically postcolonial) and historical, and on well-known and unfamiliar texts--many, but not all novels--written in Europe and its colonies and former colonies in Asia, Africa, the United States, and the Caribbean, by members of once-colonized and once-colonizing groups alike. Yet in different ways, these books also suggest the limitations of a postcolonial hermeneutic-or of any one critical approach. Indeed, Srinivas Aravamudan, Chris Bongie, and Patrick Colm Hogan all express discomfort about what "postcolonial" signifies, and Hogan and Bongie invent substitute terms. The continuing debate about the status of the "post-" in postcolonial points to the value of Moore's approach to postcolonial studies even if, or especially because, his "post-" might be premature. (2)

Hogan's Colonialism and Cultural Identity: Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean analyzes the ways that colonialism and decolonization have shaped and especially disrupted cultural identity. By "cultural identity," Hogan means something "broader ... than politics-art and education and personal affinities are pervaded by its incarnations: racial identity, ethnic identity, religious identity, national identity" (xi). He pursues his investigation through readings of Anglophone texts, all novels except Derek Walcott's play Dream on Monkey Mountain, and all but one the work of writers he identifies as "indigenous" -- that is, as members of once-colonized groups. (There is no one term that could accurately describe all the writers Hogan considers "indigenous," but the term is especially imprecise in the case of writers such as Buchi Emecheta, who was born in what is now Nigeria but lives and writes in London, or the cosmopolitan Walcott, who was born in St. Lucia and lives in the United States.) Hogan includes Wide Sargasso Sea, by the "settler/Creole" Jean Rhys, because it highlights the question of cultural identity with which he is primarily concerned (xiii). Hogan explores both common "patterns" and differences between Africa, India, the Caribbean (xii); thus, he attempts a cross-cultural analysis of the various effects of colonialism and its aftermath in different historical and geographical settings. To capture the persistence of colonial institutions, hierarchies, and values in an ostensibly postcolonial moment, the era of decolonization and beyond, he coins the useful term "postcolonization" (1-2).

Hogan's approach is, broadly, taxonomic. He defines a set of terms and categories that he uses to explain what might be called the experience of colonization and to classify the different responses to that experience that underwrite different features of cultural identity. These terms and concepts are outlined in Chapter One ("Literatures of Colonial Contact: Cultural Geography and the Structures of Identity") and developed in the Appendix, an "Analytic Glossary of Selected Theoretical Concepts." Taken together, they comprise a kind of conceptual map of the terrain on which colonial encounters take place and an interpretive grid for the analysis of the literature that describes these encounters and their sequellae. Hogan sets out, as he puts it, "to determine the scope of the field" (1). Yet the taxonomy sometimes overwhelms the discussion of particular texts and the cultures they portray.

Hogan is often insightful about the works he examines, and he makes good use of historical and anthropological scholarship to illuminate the cultures and societies these works describe. I was especially interested in the chapters on two novels with which I was unfamiliar, Earl Lovelace's The Wine of Astonishment, a Caribbean rewriting of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and Sunlight on a Broken Column, which foregrounds economic influences on identity, by South Asian writer Attia Hosain. Having been introduced to Lovelace and Hosain, I would have been grateful if Hogan had amplified his discussion of the worlds their novels depict by providing more information about them and about the contexts in which their work took shape. Hogan's focus on the novels' represented worlds, however, furthers his project of delineating the ways that colonial contact ruptures the fabric of life, both in indigenous regions and in regions--such as cities in Africa and South Asia or plantations in the Caribbean--where contact between colonizer and colonized takes place and where its consequences persist. He gives us Things Fall Apart, for example, as a window on the particularities of Igbo life. But by presenting the novel as a case study in the consequences of colonialism, he flattens its texture. Hogan's deployment of cross-cultural comparison, moreover, although evidently intended to illuminate Igbo beliefs and values by treating them as illustrative variants of the universal patterns he classifies, reproduces a Eurocentric perspective. To explain the situation of Achebe's protagonist Okonkwo, Hogan draws on the Greek concept of "eudaimonia" which, he says, "translates directly into Igbo-having a good chi, a beneficent spirit structuring the happenstance of life" (105). The use of a Greek concept as a point of comparison rehearses what Rey Chow calls "the same old ongoing Western modernist narrative in which the enlightened belief in universals (inclusionism being one such universal) proceeds hand in hand with, or is the mere flip side of, the perpetuation and enforcement of cultural boundaries (that is, practices of exclusion)" (69).

Hogan's notion that one concept, language, or culture can be translated "directly" into another exemplifies the theoretical approach that he identifies as "logico-empirical analysis" (24). He defends this approach by attacking, in a section of the first chapter titled "On `Postcolonial Theory': An Example from Homi K. Bhabha," the essay titled "Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse," which he treats as an emblem of the larger project of postructuralist-inflected, postcolonial theory represented most prominently by the work of Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. If, as Hogan asserts, "Of Mimicry and Man" is "terminologically opaque" (25), it has been enormously generative, especially so for criticism of the novel. Bhabha's central notion of mimicry, which encompasses the ways that the cultural products and practices of both colonizing and colonized groups articulate with the metropolitan cultures they variously and simultaneously imitate, parody, appreciate, and appropriate, has been productive in helping critics such as Srinivas Aravamudan, to take just one example, to think through the relationship between colonial and metropolitan cultural texts. Hogan's concepts and categories, while admirably clear, are not comparably suggestive. More salutary is Hogan's call, throughout and especially in his Afterword, for postcolonial criticism to account for the influence of economic injustice and economic inequality in colonial and postcolonization cultures. But attention to economic inequality, however beneficial it might be in tempering uncritical enthusiasm for globalization as a motor of cultural hybridity, does not require the kind of theory-bashing attack on Bhabha or poststructuralism that Hogan attempts to launch in this book.

Christine van Boheemen-Saaf's Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative, Postcolonialism is like a polar opposite of Hogan's book. Where Hogan is interested in what literature tells us about specific variants of colonial and postcolonization experience, van Boheemen-Saaf addresses herself to poststructuralist theory. Thus, she places her foray into postcolonial studies at the intersection of "deconstructive philosophy, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Joycean Irish modern literature" (1). Drawing on the work of Derrida and Lacan, and on trauma theory as it has been elaborated by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub and Cathy Caruth, van Boheemen-Saaf considers Joyce's work as a response to his colonial status and to the colonial situation of Ireland. In chapters that focus on texts and passages drawn from throughout Joyce's career, she explores the ways that his writings and specifically his fiction-or, as she puts it, the "texture of his discourse" (2)--respond to his situation as a colonized Irish subject. The connections van Boheemen-Saaf makes between trauma and Irishness, or between trauma and the colonial condition, are thought-provoking, but they are asserted rather than argued or demonstrated.

Van Boheemen-Saaf presents Irish history through the lens of trauma theory. She does not discuss particular episodes or events; the famine, for example, is mentioned for the first time on page 204. Rather, she focuses on the linguistic implications for Irish literature and culture--what Hogan would call Irish "cultural identity"--of British colonization. These include the loss or suppression of "an autochthonous language, and with it the directly transmissible memory of destitution, starvation, and slavery" (14). What is suppressed-what Caruth identifies in a telling phrase as "unclaimed experience"-erupts in and marks Joyce's writings, which Van Boheemen-Saaf treats as the work of "an Irish writer, growing up with English as his first language ... forced to allude allegorically ... and in the ... oppressor's language, to what can never be voiced with immediacy: the loss of a natural relationship to language" (2).

Van Boheemen-Saaf considers Joyce's entire oeuvre as a working-out or working-through of the same traumatic experience or set of experiences. That is, she traces in Joyce's text what Freud called "nachtraglichkeit," the "retroactive production of meaning" (19) that follows on a traumatic event that the subject cannot process when it occurs. Thus, for example, she asserts that the rhetorical excess of the "Cyclops" chapter in Ulysses is a way of representing what cannot be represented, "the impossibility of the story of national identity in a recognizable mother tongue" (110). The "Penelope" chapter, similarly, attempts "to give figure to the trauma of the non-figurability of [Joyce's] subaltern Irish origin" (152). But "Penelope" also offers a critique of the allegory of the nation as a pure woman so as to "liberate the authentic mother-tongue" (128). Yet van Boheemen-Saaf's Joyce is not simply, or not exclusively, an agent of polymorphous textual perversity, a producer, in "Penelope" and elsewhere, of ecriture feminine avant la lettre, for van Boheemen-Saaf also observes that Joyce's complaint (recorded by Frank Budgen) about women's "usurpation" of male prerogatives is homologous to colonialism because "it silences women in occupied territory and lets men speak for them" (138).

Van Boheemen-Saaf's account of Joyce's ambivalence about the English language--as Stephen Daedalus puts it, English is "so familiar and so foreign" (qtd. in van Boheemen-Saaf 76)--is less an illumination of a colonial or postcolonial situation than a paradigm for the positioning of any subject in and against a language not of his or her own making. And van Boheemen-Saaf is less interested in specific influences on Joyce's textual production than in reception, in the guise of the responses his work might evoke. Thus, she urges readers to reframe Spivak's question--"Can the Subaltern Speak?"--and to ask "`How must we read, in what manner should we listen, to hear the subaltern's voice'?" (78; cf. Aravamudan, 314; see below). The "readers" van Boheemen-Saaf addresses are Derrida and Lacan, and by extension, practitioners of Derridean and Lacanian modes of reading. Throughout, she notes that both Derrida and Lacan acknowledge Joyce's influence on them. She suggests, though, that in focusing on the linguistic inventiveness of his writing, they "neutralized its political sting and muted its historical occasion" (195). In effect, van Boheemen-Saaf calls on Derrida and Lacan, or on Derridean deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis, to become attuned to subaltern speech--including but not limited to the subaltern "speech" of Joyce. Asking readers to "witness ... with empathy" (209), she urges us to attend to the trauma that Joyce's text--or any text for that matter--at once reveals and conceals. But I'm not sure that the demands posed by Joyce's work differ substantially from those of Paradise Lost or Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost (published in 2000), to mention just two texts that make ethical appeals to their readers. Ironically, then, the theoretical imperative of empathetic witnessing overtakes--or, in van Boheemen-Saaf's terms, works to neutralize--the analysis of Joyce's colonial Irishness.

Chris Bongie's Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature takes as a point of departure Edouard Glissant's assertion that "ours is a creolizing world" (qtd. in Bongie 3). In this large book--some 434 pages of text and more than 100 pages of "reference matter" (notes, bibliography, index)--Bongie examines a vast body of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and tackles three interrelated projects. He offers an exhaustive account of creolization, defined as "the entering into complex new relations of formerly isolated peoples under the sign of our ever more interdependent world economy" (6), as it shapes a wide range of literary works. He elaborates a critical genealogy of creolite and its cognates and synonyms, metissage and mestizaje, transculturation, and hybridity. And he seeks to deconstruct the opposition between hybridity and essentialism on which, he contends (47), much postcolonial theory is founded. Juxtaposing contemporary literature that he describes as "post/colonial"--his term, akin to Hogan's "postcolonization," for the way that the postcolonial both continues and departs from its colonial antecedents (12-13)--and texts by such metropolitan writers as Victor Hugo, Joseph Conrad, and William Faulkner, Bongie explores slippages between hybridity, creolite, and metissage, on the one hand, and essentialism, authenticity, and identity politics, on the other.

As Edouard Glissant, theorist of Caribbeanness (Antillanite), is Bongie's chief theoretical reference point, so the Caribbean, and especially the francophone Caribbean, is his principal geographical focus. At once comparative and deconstructive, Islands and Exiles treats the Caribbean as both sui generis, historically and geographically unique, and as an exemplary locus of processes and practices of creolization constitutive of the contemporary world we inhabit. But just as Bongie moves back and forth in time from the postcolonial present to colonial or metropolitan pasts, using each to illuminate the other, his analysis of creolization extends out from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean, South Africa, New Zealand, France, and the United States and takes up the work of, among others, Johann Coetzee and Keri Hulme, Daniel Maximin, Alejo Carpentier, Aime Cesaire, as well as Jean Bernabe, Raphael Confiant, and Patrick Chamoiseau, authors of Eloge de la Creolite. Scrutinizing a wide range of material both well-known and unfamiliar, Bongie elicits unexpected similarities in critical thinkers or ideological perspectives usually regarded as antithetical--e.g., Aime Cesaire's Negritude and Edouard Glissant's Antillanite. And he finds significant differences in works that might conventionally be linked together thematically or by chronological or geographical proximity--e.g., French and francophone texts written during what he identifies as an "interregnum," in the 1830s and `40s, between the abolition of slavery in the British and French empires.

Unlike both Hogan and van Boheemen-Saaf, Bongie has a keen sense of textual nuance. His attention to style, to the ways that idiosyncracies of language and rhetoric underwrite the flow of ideas, gives us fresh perspectives on works such as J.H. Bernardin de St. Pierre's Paul et Virginie, a quintessential colonial pastoral known for its "oppositional relationship to modernity" (87). Juxtaposing Bernardin with his near contemporary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and contextualizing Paul et Virginie in the late-eighteenth-century culture of French colonies in the Indian Ocean, Bongie elegantly demonstrates that even this apparently retrograde instance of the reactionary genre of romance is subject to a "degrading contamination": that is, at once novelized and creolized (89) and thus a precursor of later, "post/colonial" works. Indeed, in showing how Paul et Virginie "negotiates ... the integral connections between novelization and creolization" (89), he represents the novel, creole (creolizing) genre par excellence, as an avatar of a modernity and postmodernity inextricably bound up with colonialism and its aftermath. But the refinement and polemical edge of Bongie's analyses are sometimes dulled by an accumulation of detail that makes it hard to follow the thread of his argument.

Like the daunting accretion of detail, Bongie's excessive reliance on neologisms, convoluted prose style, and relentlessly deconstructive mode of argumentation tend to mute his considerable explanatory force. Bongie critically or diacritically marks such words as "post/colonial," "end-less," "(dis)continuity," and "(un)likely." The profusion of slashes, dashes, and parentheses conveys his sense of the ways that meaning is fractured, fissured, or subjected to containment. Bongie places not only grammatical particles, but

whole words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs in parentheses, advancing the flow of his argument by minutely qualifying each of its elements. At his most effective, he seizes on the blindspots at the crux of the works he dissects, and he elucidates the slippages between binary opposites, showing us how each term infects and destabilizes the other. Writing about the ideological differences between the nineteenth-century French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher and Schoelcher's Martinique-born contemporary Cyrille-Charles-Auguste Bissette, an emancipationist who later became a reactionary, for example, Bongie asks: "If those who claim to be absolutely different from one another are actually bound in a complicitous relation, then how can any (personal, cultural, national, racial) identity ever be secure(d)? To ponder such questions," he suggests, "is to gaze into an abyss from which there may be no return" (338). His exposure of the collapse of difference points toward an interpretive gridlock that forecloses questions about meaning and undermines notions of meaningful practice that for Hogan, van Boheemen-Saaf, and Aravamudan in their very different ways are central to the ethical project of postcolonial criticism.

More troubling than Bongie's style of exposition is his treatment of gender, which is conspicuously absent from his analysis of creolization and creole identities. Most of the works he discusses are male-authored, and he inserts his own book into a critical conversation largely peopled by men such as Cesaire, Glissant, and Chamoiseau, but with few exceptions--one is his discussion of Daniel Maximin's revision of a male character named Ariel in one novel as a female character named Ariel in another (Chapter 7)--he leaves these facts of gender unexplored. Gender, as an analytical category, is relegated to the margins of the discourse or subjected to strategies of containment. "The extent to which Hugo's anxieties about race are also anxieties about gender," as Bongie puts it, is addressed in an endnote that occupies almost a page of small prim (475-76), but it appears as an afterthought or a matter not worth considering in the analysis proper. In the discussion of Hulme's the bone people, the one female-authored text that Bongie examines at length, he notes: "[The] modernist heroics, which are likely to entice those feminist readers who feel drawn to strong women protagonists must, by contrast, make the postcolonial critic rather uneasy" (421). The opposition between some, if not all, feminist readers and "the" postcolonial critic genders postcolonial criticism as masculine and feminizes reading, or more precisely, the unsophisticated practice that reflects readers' desire for role models ("strong women protagonists"). Suppressed, perforce, is not only the role that gender might play in the construction or deconstruction of creole or hybrid identities--a theme that Hogan illuminates in his discussion of Rhys and Wide Sargasso Sea and Aravamudan takes up in his chapter on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu--but also the contribution of feminist theory to postcolonial studies generally.

Srinivas Aravamudan's Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 is a postcolonial reading (rereading) of the literature of the long eighteenth century. Aravamudan examines a series of texts with an eye to "colonialist representation and anti-colonial agency" (12). In addressing eighteenth-century European literature and culture from the perspective of postcolonial theory--that is, bringing to bear a version of the postcolonial hermeneutic that David Chioni Moore envisages--Aravamudan also rethinks literary history, dislodging texts from the national cultural formations in which they were written and later read and urging us to consider national literatures in a larger, global context. (3)

Aravamudan's analysis rests on two key, related terms: "tropicopolitan" and "tropicalization." Both are richly resonant, at once literal and figurative. "Tropicopolitan," as Aravamudan defines the word, is a "name for a colonized subject who exists both as fictive construct of colonial tropology and actual resident of tropical space, object of representation and agent of resistance" (4). The tropicopolitan, as the echoes of cosmopolitan and metropolitan suggest, is not simply a denizen of or migrant from a tropical colonial zone, but a character on a global stage, an inexorably hybrid or transcultural figure. The tropicopolitan is one agent of what Aravamudan calls tropicalization, "a tropological revision of discourses of colonial domination" (5-6); another such agent is the postcolonial critic; yet another is the anti-colonial political operative. Thus, Aravamudan notes, "It is through cultural and political deformation that colonialist tropologies become tropicalizations" (15). (4)

Aravamudan identifies three versions of tropicalization; all involve contradictions within colonial rhetorical strategies and between these strategies and the tropicopolitans they colonized. "Virtualization' describes colonial (colonialist) representations that, when revisited later, yield traces of agency. While, for example, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko might well have been a function of her colonial designs, contemporary readers might now discern "the pre-history of anti-colonial agency" (106) in the way Behn characterized her royal slave. "Levantinization" mobilizes contradictions within Orientalist ideology that work to undermine monolithic variants of colonialist Orientalism or to subvert absolute distinctions between East and West. Thus, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's "class-bound but cross-cultural" identification with aristocratic Turkish womanhood disrupts the Orientalist logic of self and other (160). "Nationalization," finally, prefigures the postcolonial gesture of "writing back," since it involves "textual reappropriation by tropicopolitans who see themselves as targets of earlier tropologies and orientalisms" (21). Olaudah Equiano, for example, "situates himself at the culmination of a national culture, reworking a range of English literary figures ... [and] interrogates ... the nation as repository of colonialist thought" (235).

Aravamudan is a splendid reader and a very lively writer. His Oroonoko is "the poster boy of Behn appreciation" (30). His "Montagu places then hedges her bets in a manner reminiscent of eighteenth-century gamesters who `ran a levant' or `threw a levant'--that is made a bet with the intention of absconding if it was lost" (160). And he shows us how Abbe Guillaume-Thomas Reynal's History des deux Indes puts antislavery sentiment in the context of colonial management but at the same time addresses tropicopolitans in ways that Reynal may well not have intended (307). Similarly, he notes that "Mimicry and parody can indeed help us describe the subaltern's answer to the dominant discourse, especially if we discover mimicry to be a lived practice rather than only a subjectless and virtual discursive effect." Here, he is referring to celebrations of Bastille Day in French colonies, celebrations that often "subverted the colonial regime by inadvertently voicing aspirations for self-determination for the colonized" (300).

If Aravamudan amply demonstrates how literary criticism offers postcolonial studies its quality of attention to linguistic nuance, ambiguity, and contradiction, he also shows convincingly what postcolonial studies can give to literary criticism. In arguing for a critical practice based on nachtraglichkeit, which he defines as "deferred action" that uncovers new meanings in history, he also seeks to delineate new, broader contexts for literary study, urging that we "relocate ... rhetorical reappropriation to multiple contexts, both present and past" (15). Throughout, he articulates a critique of the "monologue of nationalist literary history" (12) with an analysis of the specificity of national literary traditions. Aravamudan's attention to national differences and to the placement of national cultural histories in a larger global frame is exemplary. His insistence on both the importance and the limitations of national modes of understanding differentiates his perspective from those of Bongie, for whom textuality overrides national difference, indeed differences of all kinds, and Hogan, for whom questions of colonialism and colonization take precedence over distinctions between different national locales.

Aravamudan deftly negotiates between sentimental readings that colonize tropicopolitan figures such as Equiano and Toussaint Louverture by flattening the contradictions that animate their enterprise and critical reading that "underestimates the ability of a monolithic underdog, the subaltern, to tropicalize metropolitan discourse, overstating radical alterity in the process." Like van Boheemen-Saaf, Aravamudan reframes Spivak's question, asking "How can the subaltern speak? Or how can we hear what we might have missed?" (314). He encourages postcolonial readers to find traces of agency where we might not expect them but not, certainly, to substitute our own notions for what can only have been inchoate in texts written long ago. Where Bongie and Hogan coin new terms to convey the lingering of the colonial in post- or neo-colonial situations, Aravamudan treats the postcolonial as a performative or proleptic term: "[D]espite its referential inaccuracy," he observes, "the catachresis postcolonial signals an unachieved possibility or a critical space that could eventually make way for a lived economic, political, and cultural one" (16). (5) His project, then, resembles that of postcolonial writers--novelists especially--who imaginatively recreate what was lacking or lurking unremarked in the official colonial archives. Toward that end, he invents the character-reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's Judith Shakespeare-of Toussaint's daughter-in-law, whose reading elicits from Reynal's History "insights about gender, slavery, and self-possession" (320) unnoticed by others. In this gesture, Aravamudan aligns his work with the fiction of such postcolonial novelists as Caryl Phillips, Maryse Conde, Peter Carey, and others who, rereading and rewriting metropolitan texts, point to novels that "virtual readers" such as Toussaint's daughter-in-law have yet to compose.



(1) See Gunn, ed., Globalizing Literary Studies. See also Jameson and Miyoshi, The Cultures of Globalization and Appadurai, Modernity at Large.

(2) See Appiah and Moore's acknowledgment (124) of Appiah's influence.

(3) Cf. Gunn on the effect that "globalizing tendencies in the discipline" have had on the "remapping of literary studies" (19).

(4) Cf. Gibreel Farishta's vision of the "metamorphosis of London into a tropical city" (Rushdie 353). Although Farishta claims to hold weather responsible for changes wrought in the British national character, what he envisages-poignantly, to readers now--is the vibrant culture produced in Britain by immigrants and their children and grandchildren.

(5) I borrow my idea of the "proleptic" from Carla Kaplan's notion of the "feminist `we' ... as a proleptic term, one which points not to an essential reality that preexists or transcends its evocation, but to solidarities which it tries, at the moment of its speaking, to instantiate" (153).


Apparadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. "Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial?" Critical Inquiry 17 (1991): 336-57.

Bhabha, Homi K. "Of Mimicry and Man: the Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse." October 28 (1984): 125-33. Reprinted in Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994. 85-92.

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996.

Chow, Rey. "How (the) Inscrutable Chinese Led to Globalized Theory." Globalizing Literary Studies. Ed. Giles Gunn. Spec. issue of PMLA 116 (2001): 69-74.

Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psycho-analysis, and History. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Glissant, Edouard. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Trans. J. Michael Dash. Charlottesville, VA: UP of Virginia, 1989.

Gunn, Giles. "Introduction." Globalizing Literary Studies. Ed. Giles Gunn. Spec. issue of PMLA 116 (2001): 16-31.

Jameson, Fredric and Masao Miyoshi, eds. The Cultures of Globalization. Durham: Duke UP, 1998.

Kaplan, Carla. The Erotics of Talk: Women's Writing and Feminist Paradigms. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

Moore, David Chioni. "Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet?" Globalizing Literary Studies. Ed. Giles Gunn. Spec. issue of PMLA 116 (2001): 111-28.

Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. 1988. New York: Picador, 1997.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1988. 271-313.
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Title Annotation:Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative, and Postcolonialism; Colonialism and Cultural Identity: Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean; Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature; Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804
Author:Yelin, Louise
Publication:Studies in the Novel
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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