Towards a new geographical consciousness: a study of place in the novels of V. S. Naipaul and J. M. Coetzee

Borbor, Taraneh (2011) Towards a new geographical consciousness: a study of place in the novels of V. S. Naipaul and J. M. Coetzee. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Focusing on approaches to place in selected novels by J. M. Coetzee and V. S.
Naipaul, this thesis explores how postcolonial literature can be read as
contributing to the reimagining of decolonised, decentred or multi-centred
geographies. I will examine the ways in which selected novels by Naipaul and
Coetzee engage with the sense of displacement and marginalization generated
by imperial mappings of the colonial space. My chosen texts contribute to the
decentralizing tendencies of postcolonialism by deconstructing the tropes of
boundaries from the perspective of those who have been marginalized on the
basis of their race, gender or geographical origins.

The work of Edward Said, bell hooks, Edward Soja, Gillian Rose and Homi
Bhabha provide a means for me to explain how the displaced subjects relate to
places in the postcolonial context. Accordingly, Coetzee’s and Naipaul’s visions
of place and geography are examined in this study in relation to the situational
complexity of their habitats. Naipaul’s view of place in terms of the binary
oppositions between the colonial and metropolitan places is discussed in relation
to the sense of displacement that is generated by his colonial upbringing. On the
other hand, Coetzee’s view of place as the product of imperialist divisive
discourses is also interpreted against the historical contest over land and
belonging in South Africa. It is argued that both writers contribute to the
decentralizing mission of postcolonialism by locating themselves in the margins
and advocating sensitivity towards the tropes of boundaries that subject people to
displacement and marginalization.

Part I discusses A House for Mr Biswas, The Enigma of Arrival, Half a Life and
Magic Seeds. I will explore how Naipaul’s sense of marginality results in his view
of the world in terms of a binarism between the centre and the margin. However,
I will argue that among these novels, the last three acknowledge that the longing
for homeliness is an unlikely quest for a displaced subject, and that the imperative of the postcolonial world requires the displaced to see the world as
unhomely, changing and hybrid.

Part II interprets Coetzee’s experience of apartheid in South Africa as a
legitimate reason for resisting the ways in which the dominant powers in the
social and cultural spheres implement marginality. In Waiting for the Barbarians,
and Life and Times of Michael K and Foe, Coetzee deconstructs boundaries and
asserts the entitlement of the displaced and the marginalized to the land and its
representation. The distinctive approaches taken by these two canonical writers
remind us of the increasing necessity, yet the complexity, of moving towards a
decentralised and dynamic view of the world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0001 Literary history and criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0471 20th century
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6000 1900-1960
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2011 14:43
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2015 13:58
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/7143

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