Rethinking form in postcolonial literature : politics, aesthetics, and formal strategies of resistance
Tan, Leah Jolene Mei Yee
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
In this thesis, I inquire into the viability of approaching postcolonial fiction through an interrogation of literary form, in lieu of reading postcolonial fiction through a primary focus on historicity and thematic references to socio-political events. At the heart of my thesis is a consideration of the “contradiction” (Boehmer, “A Postcolonial Aesthetic” 170) between the aesthetic form and political content of postcolonial literature, which frustrates attempts at approaching postcolonial literature through an aesthetic appraisal premised upon the interrogation of form. I begin by examining the ontological complications of postcolonial literature that give rise to the “contradiction” mentioned above. Next, I postulate a possible approach to a formal, aesthetic appraisal of postcolonial literature consonant with the latter’s function as political art. In particular, I depart from a consideration of (postcolonial) literary form as a mere examination of the way a work appears; instead, I forward the argument that postcolonial literary form operates as an organising strategy that structures the relation between the reader and the subject matter of the text, and which additionally subjects the reader to the political concerns of the text. By extension, I make the suggestion that the aesthetic form of postcolonial literature itself does political work. With a close examination of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008) and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), then, I test the viability of my claim: that the essence of the postcolonial literary aesthetic is not situated in the appearance of the work – but that it, more importantly, is situated in the political work that the postcolonial text does.