Cosmopolitan Criticism and Postcolonial Literature by R. Spencer

By R. Spencer

Through readings of novels by way of J.M. Coetzee, Timothy Mo and Salman Rushdie and the later poetry of W.B. Yeats, this booklet unearths how postcolonial writing can motivate the enlarged feel of ethical and political accountability had to supplant ongoing types of imperial violence with cosmopolitan associations, relationships and methods of considering.

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Each encounter with them constitutes what Said, referring to musical performance, calls an ‘extreme occasion’ (Said, 1991, 17), a chance to engage in the sort of penetrating enquiry, the imaginative exploration and the prolonged self-scrutiny so often regarded as uncalled-for (but actually sorely required) in other practices, vocations and disciplines. It is the extremity of the literary occasion – that is, its suggestion of a peculiarly heightened, acute and invigorating form of experience as well, alas, as its frequent marginality in the face of other pressures – that makes it what Said, after Theodor Adorno, calls autonomous of ‘the ordinary, regular, or normative processes of everyday life’ (Said, 1991, 20).

Despite the internationalist cant of business magnates the nation state is, as the Pakistani intellectual Eqbal Ahmad observed as long ago as the early 1980s, the indispensable structure that guarantees and protects corporate profits. Their claims to internationalism and transcendence are belied by a mundane reality: big businesses have much to protect in the world, especially from the forces of national liberation, but few means of doing so except to employ the coercive capabilities of certain states.

Cosmopolitanism should be vernacular because it needs to be measured from the perspective of those whom it currently excludes. Similarly, those critics for whom the protection of cultural diversity is paramount are both right and wrong. They are right because diversity is under threat from the concentration of media ownership and the 34 Cosmopolitan Criticism and Postcolonial Literature promiscuous penetration of the globe by corporations, and because without significant variety in outlooks, inclinations, identities and tastes cosmopolitanism would be a monochromatic, conformist and frankly uninteresting condition.

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