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'What is a Classic?' Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon

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'What is a Classic?' Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon

AHRC

Start Date

05/2011

End Date

08/2011

Value

£34,375

Grant Description

Summary and Description of the grant

My monograph, _'What is a Classic?' Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon_, examines singular contestations of literary value in twentieth- and twenty-first-century British and Anglophone literature (and literary criticism). The work combines different academic foci - postcolonial, literary historical, and pedagogical - and draws on the literary and critical works of Eliot, Conrad, Naipaul, Said, and Coetzee, among others, to examine ideas of canonicity, literary tradition, 'anxiety of influence,' the global and the vernacular, and translation. It starts with the postcolonial implications of T. S. Eliot's lecture, 'What is a Classic?' and moves on to literary case studies where the question of the classic is staged and the precise claims and dimensions of a classic debated. The different chapters examine the role of criticism in questioning and sustaining the classic; the historical context of (selected) classics of English literature and how this is reconfigured in postcolonial retellings; Naipaul's and Said's rewriting of Conrad's narrative theory; the transformation of English literature to 'literatures in English'; translations of Shakespeare in Indian cinema and on the Indian stage. The Western canon, I argue, affords the postcolonial writer a site of emergence and an impersonality on which their own critical distance from cultural locatedness may be modelled.

The proposed work is ambitious and diverse in scope, and offers multi-faceted critical analysis of the modern novel and essay, narrative theory, autobiographical fiction, poetry, and postcolonial theatre and cinema. The second chapter, provides a valuable overview of canonical extrapolations in literature from South Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Caribbean, which the other chapters provide in-depth analysis of particular literary events. The book both proposes and practices literary criticism in an international framework, which is not simply a corollary to globalisation, but works against its homogenising impulse to emphasise local detail, indigent particulars, and new criteria of selection and election for new archives.

The proposed work revises outdated disciplinary debates on canonicity in the context of the emergent field of world literature and international literary criticism. If follows the lead of Brennan, Huggan, and Newman in locating the postcolonial canon and its relationship to globalised frameworks, but revises the centre-periphery model of the earlier works to reimagine the formative role of the canon in English studies, and the relevance it has in historicist practice and cultural interrogation. A central concern of the project is the role of literary criticism in our times in articulating methods of aesthetic reception for the literature of a deterritorialised world (or a world that is organised along lines of communication and exchange that challenge national and regional limits). The idea of canons and classics is particularly relevant in the context of world literature, a heterogeneous body of literature that is produced, circulated, and consumed beyond the cultural contexts of individual nation states. World literature, which includes colonial/postcolonial writing alongside translations across millennia, signals the rise of English as a global language. I argue that even this mode of circulation, which includes classics, as well as texts excluded by the Eurocentric canon, has a residual interest in the idea of perennial literary value, though the fact that world literature is a floating population of unrelated texts makes it possible to imagine that the canon of world literature is not merely a rarified set of values (and texts) but an indispensable mode of cultural contact and transmission.

The research will be conducted in libraries, and, in one instance through interviews and interaction with the Shakespeare Society

Structured Data / Microdata


Grant Event Details:
Name: 'What is a Classic?' Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon - 714583DA-41E8-4041-9D14-21B30277CF93
Start Date: 2011-05-01T00:00:00+00:00
End Date: 2011-08-30T00:00:00+00:00

Description: My monograph, _'What is a Classic?' Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon_, examines singular contestations of literary value in twentieth- and twenty-first-century British and Anglophone literature (and literary criticism). The work combines d ...