Madeline's Reviews > The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures

The Empire Writes Back by Bill Ashcroft
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Aug 30, 09

bookshelves: assigned-reading, ugh
Read in January, 2008

Things That Would Have Made This Book Sort Of Bearable:
-If Ashcroft had been aware that most people, upon seeing the title, would immediately think of the Star Wars movie. Considering that the book is about post-colonial literature, this makes no sense. If it's the Empire that's "writing back" it can't be post-colonial because they were technically the colonizers. A much more logical title would have been "The Rebellion Writes Back."
I spent an entire English log entry writing about how much this annoyed me, and then I found out that the title was actually referencing a Salman Rushdie quote. LAME.
-A competent editor who would sit Ashcroft down and explain that using big words and huge paragraphs to say something very simple does not make him smarter; in fact, it usually only irritates your readers. Do not say "exacerbate" when you mean "increase."
-The elimination of the dicussion on the difference between "english" and "English." Still baffles me. However, it did give me another alternate title idea for this book: "ENGLISH, MOTHERFUCKER, DO YOU SPEAK IT?"

In all seriousness, the idea of post-colonial literature still kind of baffles me, and I spent most of my Perspectives on Literature class trying to come up with increasingly convulted situations to ask my professor about. For instance: a man is born and raised in England, the child of two second-generation Chinese immigrants. The man speaks both Chinese and English equally well, and he writes (in English) a fantasy novel about talking bears. Is the book post-colonial?

Discuss.

Read for: Perspectives on Literature
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Comments (showing 1-31 of 31) (31 new)

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message 1: by Nick (new)

Nick Black For instance: a man is born and raised in England, the child of two second-generation Chinese immigrants. The man speaks both Chinese and English equally well, and he writes (in English) a fantasy novel about talking bears. Is the book post-colonial?

Discuss.


Ugh, let's please not.


Madeline But what if the bear then goes on to take over a small woodland community, forcing the local rabbits to give three-quarters of their daily food collection to him and speak only in Bear, resulting in a long and bloody Rabbit Uprising?

This is why my professor hated me.


message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Damn! I love this thread. And the review.


message 4: by Robert (new)

Robert I don't remember any rabbits or bears in Animal Farm...has a lost chapter been discovered? ;-)


message 5: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Since I went to college when Jimmy Carter was president, I have no idea what post-Colonial is. But I have read Animal Farm.


message 6: by Madeline (last edited Aug 31, 2009 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Madeline Post-colonial basically means any author not writing in their native language. But even if an Indian kid somewhere is born in India, speaks only minimal Hindi, and eventually writes a book (the subject could be anything, as long as it's fictional) in English, it'll still be analyzed from a post-colonial viewpoint. (ie, "how was the tea party scene between the children in chapter three influenced by the Bombay Tea Tax imposed on Indian colonists in 1765?")

That's how I understood it anyway. Basically, it's mostly bullshit.


message 7: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Amen, and yet again, amean. Madeline. I agree.


message 8: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Sounds like a truckload of BS. Glad I was a Journalism major, anyway.




message 9: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I went to college late in life, and was forced through the sieve of Post-Colonial bullshite. It turned me off so bad that I regretted having studied literature. After college, I read only mysteries for two years before I'd even think of touching a novel that wasn't a mystery. Theory of every variety has pulled the teeth out of literature. The death of theory is a joyous thing.


message 10: by Kara (last edited Aug 31, 2009 10:11AM) (new)

Kara For instance: a man is born and raised in England, the child of two second-generation Chinese immigrants. The man speaks both Chinese and English equally well, and he writes (in English) a fantasy novel about talking bears. Is the book post-colonial?

I think it would depend on what kind of bear. A medieval English dancing bear would not be post-colonial, (although it would create plenty of disscusion on the orginal formation of empire) while a modern panda bear very much would be post-colonial, and probably would carry a sub-text of post-post-colonialim in an increasingly globally flat world. A Russian bear would, of course, be considered a commentary on the Cold War while an American bear would be a direct comment on the modern period of unintended violent imperialism. Polar bears would make it a fantasy book.

I like this thread. >grin<





message 11: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Polar bears would make it a fantasy book. Especially if pulling a sleigh for the Ice Queen.



message 12: by Kara (new)

Kara Stephen wrote: "Polar bears would make it a fantasy book. Especially if pulling a sleigh for the Ice Queen.
"


But talking bears working for the - persumably - *white* Ice Queen would suggest enslavement and bring in *lots* of post-colonial themes.


message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert But if you had a black African Sun Queen enslaving polar bears that would be ironic role reversal, right?


Madeline *facedesk*


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Stephen wrote: "Polar bears would make it a fantasy book.

Especially if pulling a sleigh for the Ice Queen.
"


Or wearing armor and saving kids with his friend the balloon guy which speaks to the hegemony of the Empire of the Church.

My favorite part of this review is the alternate title for the book, "ENGLISH, MOTHERFUCKER, DO YOU SPEAK IT?" -- that's awesome.


message 16: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Polar bears pulling an African Snow Queen. Quite apocalyptic. I like it.


message 17: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I just wish I could successfully use the word "pedagogy" in relation to this book. Damn.


message 18: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Kara, what if they were circus bears, a la John Irving?




message 19: by Kara (new)

Kara Circus bears would imply a theme of the *original* imperialists - the Romans - who invented the idea of trotting out conquered people for entertainment, but at the same time circus bears would speak to the theme of the main-streaming of marginalized society, as seen in the history of the modern circus, which was the beginning of today's entertainment culture.

Being a history major makes it pretty easy to come up with vaguely literary-sounding bs.


message 20: by Stephen (new)

Stephen It's really getting thick in here.


Madeline I no longer accept responsibility for this thread.


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian This is easily the funniest review-comment thread I've seen. But it makes me feel inadequate insofar as I cannot think of anything sufficiently witty or intelligent to add to the conversation. I think I'll just stand in the corner, drink my beer, and watching the attractive people have fun at the party.


message 23: by Ian (new)

Ian This is easily the funniest review-comment thread I've seen. But it makes me feel inadequate insofar as I cannot think of anything sufficiently witty or intelligent to add to the conversation. I think I'll just stand in the corner, drink my beer, and watching the attractive people have fun at the party.


message 24: by Nick (new)

Nick Black Cynthia wrote: "Sounds like a truckload of BS. Glad I was a Journalism major, anyway."

lol, most unintentionally amusing thing in this thread


Madeline Don't worry, Ian, I'll be standing in the corner with you watching my drunken guests lurch around the room, throwing literary allusions and in-jokes with reckless abandon.

But really, it's my fault for serving so much alcohol in the first place, so all I can do is just stand back and hope no one calls the cops.


message 26: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Elizabeth wrote: "Ian, that's funny. I was just wondering how to work in Shakespeare's bear from The Winter's Tale since Shakespeare is definitely cultural baggage of the colonial empire, but I can't, so can I join ..."

Are you saying Shakespeare is Colonial. As Foghorn Leghorn would say, that great southern rooster, "You realize of course, this means Wahrr!"





message 27: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I was playing anyway, Elizabeth. Just trying to have some fun here, in what feels like the "Bleak Midwinter" even though it's early September.


message 28: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Kara wrote: "Circus bears would imply a theme of the *original* imperialists - the Romans - who invented the idea of trotting out conquered people for entertainment, but at the same time circus bears would spea..."
Wow. I just find circus bears amusing. How stupid I am. But, I AM Madeline's mom! So, there!



message 29: by Kara (new)

Kara Madeline wrote: "Don't worry, Ian, I'll be standing in the corner with you watching my drunken guests lurch around the room, throwing literary allusions and in-jokes with reckless abandon. "

Just wanted to say its been a lovely party, you're a wonderful hostess, and I look forward to the next one!




message 30: by Duke (new) - rated it 4 stars

Duke "The empire" is the people of the formerly colonized region(s) and it makes perfect sense. "...the Empire writes back to the Centre..."

"Centre" here is the hegemonic culture. The empire writes in their individual englishes and therefore claims their position, culture, and experience as center (as opposed to the culture of the hegemonic colonizer).

Madeline - you read the book, and that is your definition? Not writing in their native language? Post-colonial literature is the body of literature affected by colonization, from the point of colonization onward. It's as simple as that.


Madeline It isn't my definition - it's my professor's. And anyway, isn't EVERYTHING affected by colonization in some way? It still seems like a very broad definition.


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