"The struggle of memory against forgetting" : contemporary fictions and rewriting of histories
Abstract (Summary)This thesis argues that a prominent concern among contemporary writers of fiction is the recuperation of lost or occluded histories. Increasingly, contemporary writers, especially postcolonial writers, are using the medium of fiction to explore those areas of political and cultural history that have been written over or unwritten by the dominant narrative of “official” History. The act of excavating these past histories is simultaneously both traumatic and liberating – which is not to suggest that liberation itself is without pain and trauma. The retelling of traumatic pasts can lead, as is portrayed in The God of Small Things (1997), to further trauma and pain. Postcolonial writers (and much of the world today can be construed as postcolonial in one way or another) are seeking to bring to the fore stories of the past which break down the rigid binaries upon which colonialism built its various empires, literal and ideological. Such writing has in a sense been enabled by the collapse, in postcolonial and postmodernist discourse, of the Grand Narrative of History, and its fragmentation into a plurality of competing discourses and histories. The associated collapse of the boundary between history and fiction is recognized in the useful generic marker “historiographic metafiction,” coined by Linda Hutcheon. The texts examined in this study are all variants of this emerging contemporary genre. What they also have in common is a concern with the consequences of exile or diaspora. This study thus explores some of the representations of how the exilic experience impinges on the development of identity in the postcolonial world. The identities of “displaced” people must undergo constant change in order to adjust to the new spaces into which they move, both literal and metaphorical, and yet critical to this adjustment is the cultural continuity provided by psychologically satisfying stories about the past. The study shows that what the chosen texts share at bottom is their mutual need to retell the lost pasts of their characters, the trauma that such retelling evokes and the new histories to which they give birth. These texts generate new histories which subvert, enrich, and pre-empt formal closure for the narratives of history which determine the identities of nations.
School Location:South Africa
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2008