What are the major characters of postcolonial literary criticism?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The principal feature of postcolonial criticism is its attempt to reevaluate works that emerged from the colonial experience. New insights have been achieved by those belonging to this school, and many of the assumptions of readers and authors alike have been overturned when looked at from the new perspectives that...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The principal feature of postcolonial criticism is its attempt to reevaluate works that emerged from the colonial experience. New insights have been achieved by those belonging to this school, and many of the assumptions of readers and authors alike have been overturned when looked at from the new perspectives that have emerged in the period since decolonization took place.

Often writers who have been considered liberal or progressive have been reexamined and viewed in a sharper focus than previously, revealing surprising and "inconvenient" truths about their work. For example, George Orwell has always been a central figure among progressive authors, and his works dealing with British imperialism in Asia have become classics. Yet the conventional view of Orwell has been established mostly by British and American critics.

By contrast, the book Orwell and the Politics of Despair by the Indian writer Alok Rai reevaluates Orwell from a non-Western perspective. Orwell's Burmese Days has generally been considered an iconic indictment of the British presence in India and Burma. But Rai points out that the references in the novel to Asians and to Asian nationalist movements during the colonial period are usually dismissive and demeaning. It is not that Orwell is unsympathetic to Asians but rather that he often reflexively expresses an inevitably Eurocentric view that was impossible at the time for even a liberal westerner to avoid.

Similarly, a postcolonial critique of Conrad's Heart of Darkness might judge Conrad as having written about the colonialist experience in an ambiguous tone instead of openly condemning imperialism and labeling it a dysfunctional system (or with an equivalent term that would have been in use in Conrad's time).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team