Graham Huggan


When, in 1938, Raja Rao wrote in his preface to Kanthapura of the difficulty faced by Anglo-Indian writers in 'conveying in a language that is not one's own the spirit that is one's own',^ he not only outlined the wider dilemma facing all those writers who, in many different social and historical circumstances and from many different parts of the world, have attempted or are attempting to give voice to a distinctively post-colonial culture in a language which has been repeatedly used throughout its history for the purposes of imperial/colonial cultural assimilation; he also anticipated the dilemma currently facing critics of the post-colonial literatures whose attempts to develop theories of and about post-colonialism are vitiated by a critical vocabulary which relies heavily on Eurocentric concepts of literary classification and textual analysis. The now outdated formula that postcolonial writing involves the adaptation of 'European forms' to a 'non- European content' has thankfully lost credence due to a recognition both of its tacit reinforcement of European assumptions of cultural leadership and of its theoretically untenable bifurcation between the formal and thematic properties of the literary text. Yet if the steady development of and, above all, wider academic exposure to critical theory in recent years has resulted in a welcome, if belated, inquiry into the assumptions on which critical reading practices are based, its Euro-American bias has ironically provided the impetus for a different kind of assimilation, this time involving the reincorporation of the various post-colonial heterodoxies within the admittedly pluralist and decentred, but now increasingly institutionalized, domain of European/American 'post-modernism'.^



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