Multiplicity of Voices in Indian English Novels: a Postcolonial Study

Topics: Western world, Orient, Man Booker Prize Pages: 4 (1177 words) Published: February 3, 2013
Multiplicity of voices in Indian English novels:A
Postcolonial study
A foundational text in the discussion of postcoloniality is Edward Said’s Orientalism. Said identifies how the western world “spoke” for and represented the Orient, while the Orient was kept silent to maintain and allow this position of power for the westerner. In Said’s Orientalism, he gives a brief history of these phenomena he identifies and describes. He says, [t]aking the late eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting point Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it; in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.

An important point of Said’s concept of Orientalism is that in the western literature written about the Orient, the west “spoke for” the Orient, thus controlling/containing by negating the Orient’s own voice. He says of Flaubert’s Egyptian courtesan that “she never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or history. He spoke for and represented her”. The courtesan was silent. Because of the ethnocentricism of Europeans, “Orientals were rarely seen or looked at; they were seen through, analyzed not as citizens, or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined”, as “silent shadows to be animated by the Orientalist” . “The Orient” was a consistent, static entity of study. Within a quotation by Gertrude Bell (“in all the centuries the Arab has bought no wisdom from experience”), Said recognizes denegation with the use of “the Arab” “such as to wipe out any traces of individual Arabs with narratable life histories” . Instead, according to Said, what was absent in contemporary Western culture was “the Orient as a genuinely felt and experienced...
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