Ian Adam


A major theme in discussion of Commonwealth Literature is that of its defining characteristics. Everyone (or almost everyone) agrees that politically there is such a group of national or regional literatures (Caribbean, Canadian, etc.) produced in former British dependencies and colonies, but there is considerable dispute about the degree to which they can be defined in formal terms which distinguish them from works in the older European tradition. The strength of the argument of those who support the notion of a single literary tradition would seem to lie particularly in the inherent conservatism of language and forms: it seems undeniable that to use English or (for example) to write novels is de facto to embrace continuities, no matter what an author's intention. But the strength of those who see ruptures and new beginnings lies in their awareness of differences in basic experience (of climates, histories, and the like), and their perception of an artistic self-definition which is, if not determined, at least conditioned by these. This essay is intended as a contribution to the second position, and argues the case for one major formal departure of the 'new' literatures from the old. It is not, I believe, the only such departure, but it is frequent and significant.



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