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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Tiffin on "englishes" Writing Back to English  

2009-04-02 23:52:34|  分类: 后殖民理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Tiffin, Helen. “Post-colonial Literatures and Counter-Discourse.” Kunapipi 9.3 (1987): 17-34.

18

       “Post-colonial literatures/cultures are thus constituted in counter-discursive rather than homologous practices, and they offer ‘fields’ of counter-discursive strategies to the dominant discourse.”

       “I want now to turn to the ways in which post-colonial literatures in english, and this particular reading of the post-colonial, challenge the traditional discipline of cross national comparative studies, and suggest where such a reading fits in terms of the ways in which ‘Commonwealth’ literature studies have been theorised and practiced.”

19

       “One of the earliest sites of direct attack apart from institutional and commercial control of the means of production of literature, was the notion of ‘literary universality’. This had fostered the centrality of the dominant discourse by enshrining the values of one particular culture as axiomatic, as literary or textual givens, and invoked policies of either assimilation or apartheid for the remainder of the English-speaking world. Either one wrote ‘like the English’, having thereby ‘transcended’ the merely ‘local’ and thus gained entry to the great imperial club, or, more frequently, one insisted on the local and thus remained irredeemably provincial. European hegemonic manoeuvres of this kind can wear a number of masks. The most recent consists in the use of the term ‘post-modern’ and the practices of some post-structuralist critics, a good number of which, like the ‘experiments’ of the post-modern text, have themselves been inspired by direct cross-cultural or colonial experience, or are in fact post-colonial experiments.”

20

       “But like literary universality, these terms and categorisations act to appropriate to a continuing European hegemony any texts that will ‘fit’ and to marginalise those that refuse Euro-cultural assimilation.”

       “In challenging the notion of literary universality (or the European appropriation of post-colonial practice and theory as post-modern or post-structuralist) post-colonial writers and critics engage in counter-discourse.”

22

       “But the particular counter-discursive post-colonial field with which I want to engage here is what I’ll call canonical counter-discourse. This strategy is perhaps most familiar to you through texts like Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, and it is one in which a post-colonial writer takes up a character or characters, or the basic assumptions of a British canonical text, and unveils those assumptions, subverting the text for post-colonial purposes. An important point needs to be made here about the discursive functions of textuality itself in post-colonial worlds. Texts constructed those worlds, ‘reading’ their alterity assimilatively in terms of their own cognitive codes. Explorers’ journals, drama, fiction, historical accounts, ‘mapping’ enabled conquest and colonization and the capture and/or vilification of alterity. But often the very texts which facilitated such material and psychical capture were those which the imposed European education systems foisted on the colonized as the ‘great’ literature which dealt with ‘universals’; ones whose culturally specific imperial terms were to be accepted as axiomatic at the colonial margins. Achebe has noted the ironies of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness being taught in colonial African universities.”

23

       “Post-colonial counter-discursive strategies involve a mapping of the dominant discourse, a reading and exposing of its underlying assumptions, and the dis/mantling of these assumptions from the cross-cultural standpoint of the imperially subjectified ‘local’. Wide Sargasso Sea directly contests British sovereignty – of persons, of place, of culture, of language. It reinvests its own hybridised world with a provisionally authoritative perspective, but one which is deliberately constructed as provisional since the novel is at pains to demonstrate the subjective nature of point of view and hence the cultural construction of meaning.”

       Just as Jean Rhys writes back to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in Wide Sargasso Sea, so Samuel Selvon in Moses Ascending and J. M. Coetzee in Foe (and indeed throughout his works) write back to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe…. Like William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe was part of the process of ‘fixing’ relations between Europe and its ‘others’, of establishing patterns of reading alterity at t the same time as it inscribed the ‘fixity’ of that alterity, naturalising ‘difference’ within its own cognitive codes. But the function of such a canonical text at the colonial periphery also becomes an important part of material imperial practice, in that, through educational and critical institutions, it continually displays and repeats for the other, the original capture of his/her alterity and the processes of its annihilation, marginalization, or naturalisation as if this were axiomatic, culturally ungrounded, ‘universal’, natural.”

       “Selvon and Coetzee take up the complex discursive field surrounding Robinson Crusoe and unlock these apparent closures.”

24

       “Moses Ascending is one of the most comic novels in the english language, and one of the most complex in terms of the counter discursive strategies it invokes. A thoroughly colonized Trinidadian, Moses, after twenty years of struggling, sets himself up as ‘landlord’, casts off (or attempts to cast off) his old acquaintances and friends, and to crown his success as a Crusoe/Prospero he employs a white Caliban/Friday, Bob, from the ‘wilds’ of England, the ‘Black Country’ of the Midlands.”

“In Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe language appears to be as unproblematical as it is for Prospero. It is ‘language’, not Prospero’s language that Caliban has been taught. Language in Defoe’s novel is apparently as clear as glass. It is simply the vehicle for the conveying of ‘reality’. But in Moses Ascending it is made deliberately opaque; the ‘struggle over the word’ is thematised in the different discourses which pervade the novel and is characteristic of Moses’ richly hybridized speech with its Trinidadian base. Throughout the novel numerous forms of englishes are used. There are Brenda’s BBC English, the American Black Panther rap of BP, and Moses’ imitation of the Australian speech of Macpherson (What can I do for you, cobber?), and the gangsterland lingo of American movies, ‘IF LANDLORD NOSY [25] EXTERMINATE HIM’ (70) adopted by Faizull/Farouk, and Moses’ own favourite archaisms….”

25

       “The presence of so many competing English voices completely subverts the possibility of any re-establishment of the idea of a standard or ‘norm’ beyond the one appropriate to character in cultural time and place, but since these are Moses’ memoires (small m), modified Trinidadian is in fact the language of thought and narrative voice within which the English dialects of Brenda and Bob are enclosed. Thus the culture which insisted on one ‘proper’ form of one language and which convinced Moses he must write like that to become English landed gentry is totally undercut.”

26

       “The multiple ironic inversions which pervade the novel draw attention to the major effects of colonialism. But Selvon’s subversions of British centrality in terms of language, point of view and so on, do not simply involve inversions of the Crusoe/Friday paradigm (though this is certainly part of it). More complexly, the novel explores the means through which Moses was himself constructed by the imperially axiomatic, and it exposes that construction, taking the imperial urge to conquer and control and colonize back to its specific cultural roots evidenced through language and in text, and draws attention to the power of language and text in the subjectification of colonial peoples.”

27

       “So the noel ultimately shows the possession of language/writing as fundamental to imperial control, and although Moses’ voice is the one that persists to the end, he has definitely descended from his ascendant post at the beginning.”

       What Selvon has however achieved (in spite of Moses’ descent) is a complete destablilisation of centrist systems and an exposure of their pretensions to the axiomatic. By re-entering the text of Robinson Crusoe (and to a lesser extent The Tempest), the assumptions on which they rest and the paradigms they reflect and construct, Selvon destabilises the dominant discourse through exposure of its strategies and offers a Trinidadian/Caribbean post-colonial counter-discourse which is perpetually conscious of its own ideologically constructed subject position and speaks ironically from within it.”

28

       “Where Selvon’s subversive technique depended on the multiple voices overriding the single dominant voice, Coetzee speaks from within a white liberal position where politics and censorship still stifle Friday’s voice….”

29

       “Friday, if he is able to speak at all, must speak only in the ‘language’ of Crusoe, and Coetzee, who is able to speak, is not prepared (rightly in my view) to do so for Friday. Instead he chooses to dramatize the oppressive structures which have rendered blacks voiceless: Friday has had his tongue cut out by person or persons unknown before the ‘events’ of the novel unfold. Coetzee’s account also raises the problem of white liberal complicity in this voicelessness, and the ways in which Friday has been constructed as voiceless by the European and continuing colonial writing of South African his/story.”

30.

       Susan Barton “has absolute control of the interpretations of Friday’s actions and motives. As she and the ‘author’, Foe, wrestle to control the ‘truth’ of her narrative, in the later sections of the novel, their completing interpretative quests are frustrated by the silence of Friday and by their futile and contradictory attempts to interpret his actions. The cutting out of his tongue has become the central ‘mystery’ of the tale, not the time on the island or the long-lost-mother motif. Increasingly it is the ‘dark Hole’ tha swallows every other traditional narrative possibility into its vortex. While for Susan (and perhaps Cruso) it remains the mystery, to the reader it is the explanatory force behind narrative itself. This is no doubt why Foe, although he is interested in Friday and Friday’s ‘mystery’ is less so than Susan; he is in fact the ‘foe’ who has originally cut out Friday’s tongue, capturing him in Robinson Crusoe and perpetuating that capture in the discursive strategies that characterise the colonialist text and colonialist practice.”

       “Foe is a narrative about the construction of the Other by European codes, but it is also concerned with the perpetuation and continuing application of these codes in post-colonial settler colonies (e.g. US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, in particular, South Africa).

32

       About Coetzee’s works:

       “And they are texts which consciously and constantly engage with their own speaking position in that situation [the African political situation]. In doing so they invoke the importance of texts in the material capture and annihilation of alterity and by forcing re-readings of fiction through history and history through fiction they emphasize the complicity of western narrative and history in that process, deliberately eschewing an apparently transparent ‘realism’”.

       “… Post-colonial inversions of imperial formations in Wide Sargassa Sea, Moses Ascending, Foe are deliberately provisional; they do not overturn or invert the dominant in order to become dominant in their turn, but to question the foundations of the ontologies and epistemological systems which would see such binary structures as inescapable.”

       “‘Genuine change’, Wilson Harris suggests, proceeds (as does his own fiction) through a series of ‘infinite rehearsals’ whereby counter-discourses seek not just to expose and ‘consume’ the biases of the dominant, but to erode their own biases. Coetzee shows the dangers of writing of Friday and for Friday, and locates the ‘enemy’ in imperial and colonial narratives which interpret and lock alterity within European codes of recognition and their dominant discursive practices. Through a series of almost infinite inversions, Selvon deflates Moses’ hopes of changing places with Crusoe/Prospero and, more significantly, destroys the foundations upon which Crusoe’s dominance rested.”

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