Hidden Heterographies: Dead Letters of Postcolonial Discourse
The proliferation of fictional texts emanating from the former colonies of Europe has been hailed by some as a welcome renaissance for the literary arts at a time when the Humanities generally face competition from the technical sciences. It has also generated anxiety within the literary establishment about the rôle of hegemonic languages and the effects upon the global publishing market of Europe’s “others.” But the debate in the Academy about the balance of European and non-European linguistic and literary production may well hide other, more sensitive issues, such as the question of how these “outsider texts” affect established versions of history, as well as their impact on literary traditions and concepts of influence, authorship and authority. Complicating these debates is the fact that most of the discourse on postcolonial texts has tended to read these texts in relation to the traditions of recent European history and esthetics, assuming that regions once under European control have known no other influences. Europe herself has tended to claim Antiquity as her earliest heritage, forgetting the effect of earlier forms of thought and representation which were often marginalized because of modern Europe’s imperial, national, and industrial objectives. Nonetheless, the traces of alternative heritages appear in many texts considered “postmodern,” exhibiting stylistic effects that are assimilated under the rubric of the “neo-baroque” or the “surreal”. But it may be argued that the “postmodern" features ascribed to contemporary writing from such regions as Africa or the Middle East reflect encounters with very different traditions than those of Modern Europe. These traditions, which became incorporated under such rubrics as the Hermetic or Esoteric Sciences, transmit other esthetics and epistemologies, other relations to signs and images, other forms of knowing and being-in-the world than the traditions that have dominated in Europe since the Renaissance. My paper will analyze the imprint of the thought and writing of cultures from the East, notably China, India and Egypt, upon writers such as the Moroccan Abdelkebir Khatibi, the Tunisian Abdelwahab Meddeb, the Lebanese writer Hoda Barakat, and the Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk.
Keywords: Postcolonial Writing, Esoteric Sciences, Postmodernity, Eastern Traditions
Dr. Lucy Stone McNeece
Chair of Comparative Literature, Department of Modern & Classical Languages, The University of Connecticut