Postcolonial Literature: Themes, Authors, and Challenges

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Problems with the Term "Postcolonial"

1. Negative Connotation: The term "postcolonial" can be considered a second-class label. Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy are best-selling authors, but there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty as to what the term denotes.

2. Misleading Definition: "Postcolonial Studies" (PCS) would seem to label literature written by people living in countries formerly colonized by other nations, but there are many problems with this definition.

3. Misrepresentation: It's a sarcastic label for subjugated countries, ruled more by the influence of the United States than by their own indigenous governments.

4. Colonialism is Ongoing: The term "postcolonial" misleads by suggesting colonialism is over when most of the nations involved are still culturally and economically subordinate to rich industrial states through various forms of neocolonialism, even though they are technically independent.

5. Eurocentric Definition: It can be argued that this way of defining a whole era is Eurocentric, that it singles out the colonial experience as the most important factor in the countries involved.

Topics in Postcolonial Literature

Anger Against Colonization

Nigerian poet and laureate Wole Soyinka's masterful irony skillfully conceals anger at the racist attitude in his famous poem "Telephone Conversation." After denying he was Black, he was shocked when he was "caught foully" by the landlady's query regarding his darkness, "HOW DARK...? OR VERY DARK?"

Idealization of Africa

One of the most important phrases in African poetry is "Negritude," a powerful literary movement founded by Aimé Césaire of Senegal. Negritude poets favored the theme of glorification of Africa. They worshipped anything African in scintillating rhymes, as in David Diop's poem.

Clash of Different Cultures

The clash of different cultures, symbolized by the piano and drums, often leads to culture shock, a recurring theme in postcolonial literature.


Images that evoke a situation beyond hope, reminiscent of T.S. Eliot's war poetry, are visible in K. Brew's poem "The Search" - the past is a source of pain and disillusionment.


Memorable lines of Peter's poem "On a Wet September Morning," with their sheer beauty of imagery and the underlying thought of universal brotherhood, celebrate the oneness of humanity.

Notable Authors and Works

African poetry is not small because it is different.

  • Nadine Gordimer: "The Train from Rhodesia" (short story about a wooden lion)
  • Wole Soyinka: "The Lion and the Jewel" (play), "Telephone Conversation" (poem)
  • Gabriel Okara: "Once Upon a Time" (poem), "Spirit of the Wind" (poem)
  • Buchi Emecheta: "The Joys of Motherhood" (novel)
  • Jamaica Kincaid: "A Small Place" (novel)
  • Arundhati Subramanian: "To the Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian" (poem)
  • Bharati Mukherjee: "The Management of Grief" (short story)
  • Alice Munro: Various fiction, including works featuring characters like John, Eddie, Joyce, and Matt
  • Dolores Prida: "Coser y cantar" (play)

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