A Comparative Study In Selected Postcolonial Plays English Literature Essay (2023)

Paper Type: Free EssaySubject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2151 wordsPublished: 1st Jan 2015

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A Proposal

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines postcolonial literature as a category devised to replace and expand upon what was once called Commonwealth Literature. As a label, it thus covers a very wide range of writings from countries that were once colonies or dependencies of the European powers. In practice, the term is applied most often to writings from Africa, the Indian sub-continent, the Caribbean, and other regions whose histories during the 20th century are marked by colonialism, anti-colonial movements, and subsequent transitions to post-Independence society.

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Critical attention to this large body of work in academic contexts is often influenced by a distinct school of postcolonial theory which developed in the 1980s and 1990s, under the influence of Edward W. Said’s landmark study Orientalism (1978). Postcolonial theory considers vexed cultural-political questions of national and ethnic identity, ‘otherness’, race, imperialism, and language, during and after the colonial periods. The principal figures of postcolonial theory after Said have been Gayatri C. Spivak and Homi K. Bhabha.

The ‘post’ clearly refers to and implies a period ‘after’ colonialism and in this strict literal sense the object of postcolonial studies is the historical period of the late twentieth century as the European empires of the nineteenth and early twentieth century broke up and former colonies achieved their political independence.

Drama is one of the oldest and most highly regarded literary forms. Like other forms of literature, it can be used a vehicle for expressing complex thoughts and attitudes. Postcolonial writers used drama and the theater not merely as a dramatic performance. However, postcolonial theatre is performance staged as an act of resistanceto colonialism and its consequences. In addition to critiquing cultural ambiguities and traumas of imperialism, postcolonial theater acts as a vehicle for precontact community maintenance and for cultural transformation. Postcolonial theater takes a number of forms, ranging from the reworking of classics, ritual, history, storytelling, and the community-based performance.

The colonized subject is characterized as ‘other’ as a means of establishing the binaryseparation of the colonizer and colonized and asserting the naturalness and primacy of the colonizing culture and world view. In postcolonial theory, it can refer to the colonized others who are marginalized by imperial discourse, identified by their difference from the centre and, perhaps crucially, become the focus of anticipated mastery by the imperial ‘ego’. The term “othering” was coined by Gayatri Spivak for the process by which imperial discourse creates its ‘others’.

This dissertation attempts to trace the use of drama by a selection of postcolonial dramatists who wrote in English and in Arabic to represent the self/other or the colonizer/colonized dialectic. The writers selected are of the most celebrated in modern postcolonial literature whose works are among its landmarks. The dissertation also attempts to show how those different dramatists used this genre to express the self/other dialectic and what are the areas of resemblance/difference among them.

The dissertation falls into an introduction, three chapters and a conclusion.

(Video) What is Postcolonial Theory? - PHILO-notes

Chapter One is an Introduction divided into two sections. Section one attempts to define postcolonial literature and sheds light on critics who are the pioneers of this discipline, namely Edward Said, Gayatri C. Spivak, and Home K. Bhabha focusing on the concept of the “other”. Section two sheds light on postcolonial theatre and how it is used to counter colonialism.

Chapter Two is divided into four sections. Each section discusses a postcolonial play written in English. The plays selected are: Wole Soyinka’s The Swamp Dwellers, Derek Walcott’s The Sea at Dauphin, Athol Fugard”s The Island, and Brian Friel’s Translations.

Chapter Three is also divided into four sections and in each section one play written in Arabic is discussed. The plays selected for study are: Sa’dun Al-Ubeidy’s Jisr Al-‘Adu, Sabah Atwan Al-Zaidy’s Raseef Al-Ghathab, Alfred Faraj’s Al-Nar wa Al-Zaitun, and Bneian Salih’s Sirat S.

Chapter Four tries to show the similarities/differences between the plays discussed.

The conclusion sums up the findings of the study.

Working Bibliography:

Primary References:

  • Al-Ubeidy, Sa’dun. 1965. Jisr Al-‘Adu. Baghdad: Al-Sha’ab Printing Press.
  • Al-Zaidy, Sabah Atwan. 1975. Raseef Al-Ghathab. Unpublished play.
  • Faraj, Alfred. 1970. Al-Nar wa Al-Zaitun. Cairo: Dar Al-Ma’arif Al-Masriya.
  • Friel, Brian. 1981. Translations. London and Boston: Faber and Faber.Fugard, Athol. 1993. The Road to Mecca. ?: Theatre Communications Group.
  • Salih, Bneian. Sirat S.
  • Soyinka, Wole. 2002. Death and the King’s Horseman. ?:W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Walcott, Derek. 1971. Dream on Monkey Mountain. ?:Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Secondary References:

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Postcolonial literature often addresses the problems and consequences of the decolonization of a country, especially questions relating to the political and cultural independence of formerly subjugated people, and themes such as racialism and colonialism. A range of literary theory has evolved around the subject.

What is postcolonial literature summary? ›

Postcolonial theory is a literary theory or critical approach that deals with literature produced in countries that were once, or are now, colonies of other countries. It may also deal with literature written in or by citizens of colonizing countries that takes colonies or their peoples as its subject matter.

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Postcolonialism often also involves the discussion of experiences such as slavery, migration, suppression and resistance, difference, race, gender and place as well as responses to the discourses of imperial Europe such as history, philosophy, anthropology and linguistics.

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Postcolonial literature also becomes relevant because it is capable of providing a representation of the suppressed as well as the suppresser, and hence offers a representation of conflicting views and ideologies.

What is the main idea of post colonialism? ›

Postcolonial theory is a body of thought primarily concerned with accounting for the political, aesthetic, economic, historical, and social impact of European colonial rule around the world in the 18th through the 20th century.

What is post colonialism in your own words? ›

post-colonialism: Broadly a study of the effects of colonialism on cultures and societies. It is concerned with both how European nations conquered and controlled "Third World" cultures and how these groups have since responded to and resisted those encroachments.

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The general purpose of engaging in postcolonial criticism is to open a space where the residual effects of colonialism can be resisted. It is not a question of restoring precolonial cultures, but rather showing how former colony and colonizer can establish a mutually respectful relationship in a postcolonial world.

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What are the problems of post colonialism? ›

Postcolonial theory has its critics from within its own ranks whose main criticisms are fourfold. First, the assumption that colonialism is over and a postcolonial world is here does not hold up. Second, postcolonialism's methodological toolkit is too obsolete to deal with emerging world problems.

What is an example of post colonialism? ›

Example: Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe is considered one of the most significant post-colonial authors. Achebe's work focused on the colonization of Nigeria, his homeland. In Things Fall Apart, he focuses specifically on the struggles that Nigerians faced as the British expanded their control.

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Postcolonialism focuses its critique on the inequality between states or regions, as opposed to classes. The effects of colonialism are still felt in many regions of the world today as local populations continue to deal with the challenges created and left behind by the former colonial powers.

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Postcolonial writers are really interested in nationhood and nationalism. A lot of these writers are very patriotic. They write books on behalf of their nations. Their work is often nationalist, because postcolonial writers like to highlight and valorize their nation's cultural, political and social identity.

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What is post colonial example? ›

Example: Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe is considered one of the most significant post-colonial authors. Achebe's work focused on the colonization of Nigeria, his homeland. In Things Fall Apart, he focuses specifically on the struggles that Nigerians faced as the British expanded their control.


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