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Postcolonial Theory and Literature - Edward W. Said, First Wave: Colonial Discourse, Mahasweta Devi, W. E. B. Du Bois

studies cultural constructed orient

Postcolonial theory, often said to begin with the work of Edward W. Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Homi K. Bhabha, looks at literature and society from two broad angles: how the writer, artist, cultural worker, and his or her context reflects a colonial past, and how they survive and carve out a new way of creating and understanding the world. One of the earliest critical works to present this point of view is Robert J. C. Young's White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (1990).

When Said published his path-breaking book Orientalism in 1978, it established a trend that was, for some years, loosely described as "colonial discourse studies" rather than "postcolonial theory." Although Said ostensibly wrote about the Middle East being constructed as the "Orient" by French intellectuals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was the Spanish and British empires that formed the main fields of colonial discourse studies. Although Said's main thesis was that the West constructed something called the "Orient" as an object of investigation through varieties of cognitive, disciplinary, and administrative practice, colonial discourse studies was broader in its focus and conclusions.

Said, an Arab-American of Palestinian origin, continued to influence colonial and subsequently postcolonial studies and its offshoots (cultural studies, women's studies, ethnic studies) with his writings and his political journalism. Important works are Covering Islam (1981), The Question of Palestine (1979), The World, the Text, the Critic (1983), and Culture and Imperialism (1993).

[back] Postcolonial Studies - Colonial Encounters, Nationalism, Resistance, Decolonization, Postindependence And Neocolonialism, Historical And Regional Contexts

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about 6 years ago

really good

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over 4 years ago


I published some observations in several internet pages as to the popularity of
Rabindranath Tagore. We the Bengalis deeply respect him for his
beautiful writings and songs.

A few words about the Nobel Prize for Rabindranath Tagore:

1. Tagore was presented as an Anglo-Indian before the Nobel Committee.
This was never disclosed by Visva Bharati;

2. Ignoring Americans, it was for the first time that the Nobel Prize
for literature was awarded to a non-European;

3. Interestingly, Tagore never visited the Swedish Academy for about 7
years even after the award (when he was awarded the Nobel Prize he was
in England and not in Calcutta);

4. Tagore never made any contact or speech marking the Nobel Prize (he
just made a two-line acknowledgement only);

5. The British Ambassador received Tagore's Nobel prize in person;

6. The prize medal was home delivered at Jorasanko in Calcutta (or in

7. None of the Nobel Committee members either knew Bengali or ever
read Tagore's writings; and

8. The library of the Swedish Academy had no book by Tagore
accessioned in its record at that time. What do these points signify?

I do not want to interrupt any body. I understand that Rabindranath
Tagore is sacrilege to many of his fans. But the truth should not be
suppressed by way of propaganda.

I cordially welcome the objectively substantiated replies to my above
points. In fact, if can get such satisfactory replies then I shall
surely stop my project on the subject towards publication of a book.
Even Swedish Academy confirmed some of the above points.

By my survey results it appears that 80% of popularity of Rabindranath
Tagore is due to his getting the Nobel Prize. At least the facts
reveal it. I take this opportunity to say that no book on the history
of Bengali Literature ever mentioned even the name of Rabindranath
Tagore until 1912 when the poet was about 52 years of age.

My above observations are not based on the figments of imagination but
available facts.

Looking forward to objectively substantiated replies with good
references, if any.

A.B.M. Shamsud Doulah
G.P.O. Box 351, Dhaka-1000

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over 4 years ago