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Title: Aesthetics and Identity: V.S. Naipaul and the Postcolonial Picturesque
Authors: Black, Noah
Keywords: Text;English, Department of;Honors papers;Student research
Issue Date: May-2011
Publisher: Memphis, Tenn. : Rhodes College
Abstract: In three of his major texts, V. S. Naipaul explores the existential exile of his protagonists, who engage with their landscapes and natural surroundings in order to construct new postcolonial identities. Naipaul’s characters often aestheticize these landscapes in language that recalls the eighteenth-century philosophies of the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque. Through encounters with various landscapes both in England and its former colonies, Naipaul’s exiled subjects cultivate their postcolonial selves, which are, as Homi Bhabha would argue, inevitably hybrid, that is, the synthesis of two conflicted cultural identities that results in the formation of a third, transcendent identity. This project analyzes these encounters through instances of what I call the “postcolonial picturesque,” an aesthetic that allows us to explore the landscape’s identity-forming potential. I chart how the development of the postcolonial picturesque in The Mimic Men (1967), A Bend in the River (1979), and The Enigma of Arrival (1987) reflects the evolution of postcolonial hybridity in Naipaul’s work. Initially, in The Mimic Men, the characters’ debilitating obsessions thwart the realization of a transcendent hybridity. Then, in A Bend in the River, the postcolonial picturesque slips into sublimity and terror, as the chaos of postcolonial revolution overwhelms it. Finally, The Enigma of Arrival redeems this aesthetic by grasping its cultural utility and achieving at last a truly hybrid postcolonial identity.
Description: Noah Black granted permission for the digitization of this paper. It was submitted by CD.
Appears in Collections:Honors Papers

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