The Alien Within: Postcolonial Gothic and the Politics of Home
Postcolonial gothic fiction arises in response to certain social, historical, or political conditions. Postcolonial fiction adapts a British narrative form that is highly attuned to the distinction and collapse between home and not home and the familiar and the foreign. The appearance of the gothic in postcolonial fiction seems a response to the failure of national politics that are riven by sectarian, gender, class, and caste divisions. Postcolonial gothic is one way in which literature can respond to increasing problematic questions of the postcolonial domestic terrain: questions concerning legitimate origins; rightful inhabitants; usurpation and occupation; and nostalgia for an impossible nationalist politics are all understood in the postcolonial gothic as national questions that are asked of the everyday, domestic realm. This dissertation argues that the postcolonial employment of the gothic does four distinct things in works by al-Tayeb Salih, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Arundhati Roy, and Salman Rushdie. First, it forms a distopic representation that emerges when the idealist project of the national allegorical romance fails. Second, the postcolonial gothic is interested in the representation of the unheimlich nature of home as both dwelling and nation. If colonialism created a home away from home and metaphorized this spatial division in psychoanalysis through the relationship of the heimlich to the unheimlich, then part of the postcolonial gothics agenda is unveiling that behind the construction of hominess abroad lies something fundamentally unhomely. Third, postcolonial gothic employs a gothic historical sensibility, or a sense of pastness in the present. Fourth, if the gothic is the narrative mode by which Britain frightened itself about cultural degeneration, the loss of racial or cultural purity, the racial other, sexual subversion and the threat that colonial-era usurpation and violence might one day return, then postcolonial gothic deploys the gothic as a mode of frightening itself with images of transgressive women who threaten to expose the dark underbelly of their own historical and political contexts.
Advisor:Shalini Puri; Troy Boone; Carol Stabile; Susan Andrade
School:University of Pittsburgh
School Location:USA - Pennsylvania
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/18/2008