Postcolonial Criticism

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The colonial era had a significant cultural influence. Many countries colonized many areas. In particular, England was a great colonial power and colonized locations in the Americas, India, and Africa. What post-colonial literary criticism does is analyze literature written both by colonial powers and by those who were colonized in order to look at the cultural impact of colonization. Now that colonialism is a thing of the past, literary critics are especially interested in analyzing colonial literature to see how the colonial power influenced the colonized in terms of "issues of power, economics, politics, religion, and culture" (Purdue OWL: "Post Colonial Criticism"). They are especially interested to see how the colonial powers interpret the culture of the colonized, how the power views the oppressed.

One example can be seen in the post-colonial interpretation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Western literary critics have viewed the novel as a criticism of colonialism, especially the mother country's treatment of the colonized. However, post-colonialists see Conrad as portraying the colonized Africans as savages in comparison to Europeans and further saying that the Europeans are really just as savage as the Africans. Hence, even though Conrad may have written the book with an anti-colonialist argument in mind, post-colonial critics see him as portraying the oppressed as a savage culture, which reflects the cultural influence of colonization.