Atlantic and Other Worlds: Critique and Utopia in Postcolonial Historical Fiction
- Greg Forter (see profile)
- CLCS Global Anglophone, GS Prose Fiction, LLC 20th- and 21st-Century English and Anglophone, TC Postcolonial Studies, TM Literary and Cultural Theory
- British literature, Literature and history, Indian literature, Economics and literature
- Item Type:
- History and literature, Literature and economics
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- This essay explores the meanings and effects of postcolonial authors’ recent refashioning of classical historical fiction. That refashioning has two aims: a materialist cartography that counters the nationalist vocation of classical historical fiction by revealing the supra-national, global aspirations of colonial capitalism as a system; and an effort to retrieve from colonial modernity the residues of premodern, often presecular modes of solidarity that persist within yet lie “athwart” the colonial-modern. The analysis focuses on novels by Barry Unsworth and Amitav Ghosh. It engages with work on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds; with theoretical critiques of utopia; and with the Lukácsian concept of typification (and Ian Baucom’s critique thereof). The essay concludes by linking the birth of postcolonial historical fiction to the form of finance capital undergirding our contemporary moment—a form of capital that reprises while intensifying that which held sway at the moment of historical fiction’s first emergence.
- This essay will be published in the October 2016 issue of PMLA.
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