Post-Colonial Allegory and the Transformation of History

p. 158

allegory and history

Allegorical writing involves doubling or reduplicating extratextual material, and since the allegorical sign refers always to a previous or anterior sign, it is by definition invested in what Paul de Man calls a "rhetoric of temporality." In other words, an awareness of the passage of time is at the heart of allegory.

redeeming or annihilating the past...But whether allegory is enlisting tradition in the service of historicism or is exercising its own "will to power' against that tradition, the allegorical text is seen to be bound up with the question of the authority of the past. . .

In the context of post-colonial cultures, however, the problem of history goes beyond the simple binary of either redeeming or annihilating the past. . .

. . .Whatever the specific tactic, the common pursuit is to proceed beyond a "determinist view of history" by revising, reappropriating, or reinterpreting history as a concept, and in doing so to articulate new "codes of recognition" within which those acts of resistance, those unrealized intentions and those re-orderings of consciousness that "history" has rendered silent or invisible can be recognised as shaping forces in a culture's tradition.

--see history as language

p. 160

What is unique to the allegorical representation of such details of colonial and post-colonial history, I think, is the fact that the allegorical levels of meaning that open into history are bracketed off by a literal level of fiction interpollated between the hstorical events and the reader so as to displace the matter of history into a secondary level of the text accessible only through the mediation of the primary fictional level.

imperialist codes of recognition--e.g. Columbus's code==the territory of the "other" is read back into the master code of a monarchical and Catholic hierarchy. In the manichean code JanMohamed identifies, the "other" is read as the inferior term in a binary opposition ...

Both codes of recognition depend upon allegorical thinking to effect the assimilation of the "other" into an overarching, supposedly universal, metaphysical code, and both show how allegory can be indicted as a mode of representation that energises the imeperial enterprise.

p. 164

post-colonial writing is engaged in a process of destabilizing and transforming our fixed ideas of history, and this process demonstrates, I think, the inadequacyy of the critical position that perveives allegory as a mode of writing that is limited in scope and mechanically determined by the historcail or literary "pretext" upon which it is based. is fiction that determines the way we read history., history that is contingent upon fiction, and not the other way around.

p. 165 Post-colonial allegories are concerned with neither redeeming nor annihilating history, but with displacing it as a concept and opening up the past to imaginative revision.

"Post-Colonialism, Post-Modernism and the Rehabilitation of Post-Colonial History."  Helen Tiffin.

While it is possible to suggest that certain post-modernist experiments in form proceed from and issue in apolitical sterility, it is not possible to do the same with post-colonial literatures. The dis/mantling, de/mystification and unmasking of European authority that has been an essential political and cultural strategy towards decolonisation and the retrieval or creation of an independent identity from the beginning persists as a prime impuse [sic] in all post-colonial literatures.

p. 176

Against History

Writers like Achebe and Rao are able, then, to resist the European master narrative of history because they can essentially oppose its incursions with alternative ontological systems, invoking forms which thematise the destructive complicities of western history and narrativisation in the containment and/or destruction of their own cultures.

Dismantaling Narrative

p. 176

the "counter culture of the imagination" still promotes polyphony, eschews fixity, monocentrism and closure, interrogates concepts such as history and texutality, opposes oral to written formulations, but does so by inhabiting the absences or the oppositional "positions" in the imperial textual record, and from these absences and oppositions interrogating its presence or fixity. A related strategy involves radical "re-reading" of those records, whether fictional, historical, or anthropological. Here there is no recuperable system, but the interrogation of inscribed ones can act, a kind of anti-system.

...escaping the constraints of written records is frequently thematised ...

. . .absencess, the gaps in the record, the blind spots of the epistemology and ontology become the locus of the possibility of genuine change, and though this remains unaccoplished by the male crew, some hope is provided by the women who wait on the island at the conclusion of the novel [Natives of My Person]....

Such erosion of fixed forms, a world of continual becoming can only signal a "crisis of authority" from a European perspective. From a post-colonial one it speaks of the erosion of that former authority and a liberation into a world in which one's won identity may be created or recuperated not as an alternative system or fixture, but as process, a state of continual becoming in which author/ity and domination of any kind is impossible to sustain.

enables creativity and restitution