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Monday, December 26, 2011

Seriously, I'm not trying to get your hopes up

But it is a break so I have time to just update, so why not, haha. I think I finally made a break through on Midnight's Children last night. I started reading again at like 11:30 pm and I was just clipping along. I was actually kind of hooked finally. I think the remaining two hundred pages will be cake. I have been trying to focus on the meaning of the book as I read. I think a lot of what the main character does and what happens to him reflects Indian history and culture. I kind of wish I had done a through study of Indian history, at least post Britain history, because I feel like the book would make a lot more sense if I knew the history of this time period. I know generally what happened, but I have never really looked into the details. Part of the problem is how politically charged the time period is. I can't stand obviously slanted history. I know all history is fundamentally biased, but I do not like it when you can tell how biased it is. Although maybe that is preferable to the bias you cannot detect because it matches your own.

As I have been reading and thinking about my project, I have decided that the stance I am going to take for my project is to deny the label "post colonial" for the literature I study. If you want to talk about the "post colonial" period of Indian literature, then I would be happy to discuss it. But lumping the writing of Chinua Achebe with R.K. Narayan with the writing of Isabelle Allende is perfectly ridiculous. What do they have in common? How can you group together a academic community based on such diversity? Not only are these "colonies" from different sides of the globe, they weren't even colonized by the same cultures. How is that a coherent field of study? While some of these countries arguably are still wading through the mire of re-establishing their national identities after being released from colonization, India hardly falls into that category. Can anyone create a coherent list of the Indian authors and books in English alone? All my research points to the contrary. In fact I have spent the better part of this year futilely contacting professors from over a dozen institutions to see if I could put together a rough list of the most important authors/works to read to orient myself to Indian literature. No one could help me. No one had any real suggestions. From these contacts and snooping around the internet I have amassed a list of over two hundred Indian authors, each with multiple mentions as an author in English of merit, before I kind of gave up. I maintain it, but not for the reason I did before. If Indian literature in English has grown to the point where it is now impossible for a single person to conceive of it, can it still be lumped in with every other former colony as "post colonial"? It seems to me that it would be much more practical to give Indian literature in English its own field of study, namely Indian Literature, with accompanying sub-subjects for specialization. It is extremely arrogant of the English academic world to try to lump everything that isn't American or British into a broad, amorphous holding pen labeled "post colonial". The English language is like a virus, or, I don't know, like linux or something. It is open source. No one controls it. It is not like Spanish, French, or Icelandic that have unified directing committees that have the final say of what is a word and what is not. By asteroiding into India, Britain infected it with English. It became an Indian language. In fact, due to the diverse languages in India and the proud cultures behind each, English is now an essential language in India, not least to facilitate communication between Hindi and Tamil speakers. Thus if they have their own brand of English and now write fluently, directly in English so prolifically that it is now nearly impossible for one person to hold the entire corpus of Indian literature in English, the brand, like a dog's collar, is not only inadequate, it is insulting. It is time for the genre boundaries to change. If other countries still would like to remain within the confines of "post colonial", that is fine, but as for India, it is time they got an English department of their own as equal participants in the language. Especially since they have technically been exposed to it and had it spoken on their soil for around four hundred years. If my hasty research is correct, that is longer than Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, and at least as long as the Americas, and it is quite possible that the East India Company had a presence in India before the English ever really had a presence in the Americas. Besides, the only reason English is so successful in each of these countries is because their invades obliterated the native culture. Is being labeled "post colonial" then a punishment for resisting cultural cleansing? I don't think the implications are very flattering for the English academic world.

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