Archive by Author

Amazon Review: ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie

16 Apr

Midnight’s Children, which has finally been adapted as a film, is as tumultuous and unwieldy as the history that it provides. It uses creative, nonlinear storytelling, humor, and the supernatural to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of providing a personal story that also tells the story of India (and Pakistan and Bangladesh). Rushdie’s book is a monumental achievement that has become the gold standard of tying personal narrative to a larger sort of metanarrative that captures history and culture born out of myriad cultures, beliefs, and peoples.

For those unfamiliar with Rushdie beyond the fatwa stories or going by the back-of-the-book summary, the humor may come as a surprise (I think it will be a welcome one). Character’s in Midnight’s Children are often stylized and border on farcical. There are also subtle and clever bits like naming an impotent character “Nadir Khan.” The humor here helps the reader with a lengthy and weighty work that often deals with serious subject matter ranging from massacres to personal tragedy.

This novel is by no means a quick read. This is due in equal parts to Rushdie’s adjective heavy prose and the nonlinear structure. Accounts of past events are interrupted by the narrator’s present life at regular intervals and the accounts do not always come in chronological order. The prose, at least, is a delight, making up for the plot’s lack of profluence.

Because the story is never out-and-out allegory and provides a fair amount of exposition, knowledge of Indian history is not completely necessary, but absolutely enriches the story and allows the reader to appreciate the ways that Rushdie toys with the idea of “truth” and creates a narrative which weaves together the zeitgeist of his native land from periods ranging from the 1910s through the later part of the 20th century (the book was published in 1981).

The story is narrated by Saleem Sinai, born at midnight of August 15, 1947, the precise moment of India’s independence from Britain. For these reasons, Saleem is a self-styled, walking representation of the whole of India, tied to his country’s fate for life. The story, written down by an older Saleem for his children, also includes the story of his parents and grandparents, and so stretches back to the early days of Gandhi’s activism, before home rule seemed truly realistic.

Notable is the tie between Saleem’s family and major world events. Sometimes the personal events coincide with the historical, as when Saleem’s grandfather, Aadam Aziz sees his future wife’s face for the first time as World War I ends, and sometimes the characters are thrown directly into the historical events. In Aadam’s story, the Amritsar massacre, where British soldiers opened fire on a congregation of Indians, figures large. Jawaharlal Nehru and other real-life factor into the story but the novel focuses on fictional creations such as Mian Abdullah, who creates an organization to counter Jinnah’s Muslim League.

A major theme for the novel, as well as Indian history, is partition. The British Raj created a country out of what had been a collection of disparate societies that coexisted on the subcontinent. Some academic work has been done linking the British census with the creation or, at least, crystallization of the caste system in India, a social norm that Westerners tend to focus on. Before the British left, they slighted the subcontinent one more time by partitioning the land into Pakistan and India (modern Bangladesh was originally a part of Pakistan, although not contiguous). Although this pleased some leaders (Jinnah), it would result in widespread sectarian violence, especially between Hindus and Muslims, and armed conflict surrounding Bangladesh’s independence and between India and Pakistan, particularly in Kashmir, all of which are featured in Midnight’s Children.

Another recurring element is the idea of truth and accuracy. Saleem’s misremembers dates but, at another juncture, points out that what is important is what people believe to be true, rather than empirical truth, which seems to be Rushdie making a case of the importance of the novel despite its status as a work of fiction. This is tied to the idea of Saleem as India. The narrator says “How, in what terms may the career of a single individual be said to impinge on the fate of a nation? I must answer in adverbs and hyphens: I was linked to history both literally and metaphorically, but actively and passively…” Here Rushdie explains the conceit of the novel, that Saleem (and his family) is not just allegory for India or a participant in its history (like a Forest Gump) but both those things. Despite the soaring, hilarious, masterful prose, this is the true value of the novel.

Midnight’s Children is perhaps the best known and most successful example of capturing the story of a diverse culture in a work of fiction. Recently, I have read Patrick Chamoisea’s Texaco, which does similar work in regards to a neighborhood in the Fort-de-France area of Martinique. Chamoiseau, like Rushdie, provides a protagonist who tells both her story and the story of her parents, weaving together the people and cultures that have come together to make up a place. In Texaco, the settlement and the story are described as a mosaic, which is applicable to Midnight’s Children. In addition to the comparable structure, Texaco also deals with the themes of one power replacing another and class divides sometimes lost in more conventional histories.

Midnight’s Children is staggering in scope. It covers postcolonial (in relation to Britain) and neocolonial ideas (America nudges its way in, of course) and covers most of the 20th century. It is intensely personal and a lesson in the complicated history of the Indian subcontinent from political movements to the India/Pakistan conflict to the war with China. It has magic, unrequited love, and shocking violence. In a recent interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, Rushdie said that while the novel benefited from the exuberance of a twenty eight year-old author, that he has more technical command now. The technical aspects such as pacing and structure may fall short of perfect, but this is more than made up for by the innovations and the sheer magnitude of capturing the history and people of the most populous democracy in the world.

Assimilation and Integration

9 Apr

Monsieur Alcibiade gives a political speech in Texaco in which he speaks favorably of France but rails against “subjection, the goal of which was to exploit the colony in France’s interest alone.” He later presents the metaphor of a daughter walking side-by-side with the mother to represent the ideal situation of Martinique maturing. Throughout Texaco (thus far), there are a great deal of references to the population’s love of France and French culture. Nelta, while presented as a character who wished to travel the whole world, dreams primarily of Marseille. Aside from Alice in Wonderland, even the skeptical Marie Sophie holds on to books by French authors.

Against our expectations, Martiniquans are never shown revolting against the motherland, even in the face of casualties from the two World Wars. Although Alcibiade serves as an antagonist and no fan of Cesaire, his views do not seem entirely out of step with Cesaire or many of Chamoiseau’s more sympathetic characters. Cesaire’s desire to make Martinique a “department” of France, which would seem to be in step with Alcibiade, seems odd. Why would Cesaire want this?

In “Political integration as an Alternative to Independence in the French Antilles,” Arvin W. Murch conducts a study on Antillean (Martinique and Guadaloupe) leaders’ attitudes toward France and independence in contrast to an earlier study on former British holdings in West Indies. His purpose was to get to the bottom of what seemed like an anomaly (The French Antilles moving toward “closer integration with metropolitan France”) in the “age of nationalism.”

The findings of the study, published in 1968 (the timing of this study seemed appropriate for the novel, particularly the section we are covering on Tuesday) are intriguing. Based on the earlier study of the West Indies, Murch asserts that if the Antilles have not moved toward independence, that it can be attributed to “(1) the absence of an enlightened leadership capabe of mobilizing these demands, or (2) an already satisfactory level of equality in the local society” (546).

Murch provides data proving that Martinique (and Guadaloupe) did, in fact, have an enlightened leadership (by this he means a leadership that buys into Enlightenment ideas such as The Rights of Man), pointing toward more satisfactory economic and human rights conditions. Despite some of the evidence we see in Texaco, Murch does prove that conditions such as an open society and access to education are, at least, better at the time in Martinique than Jamaica.

Importantly, Murch discusses the idea of assimilation, likening France’s policy to that of Ancient Greece, as opposed to the British’s resemblance to the Romans. In the Greek model, the mother/father state “sought to make each holding an integral part culturally, politically, and commercially of the homeland.” (548). Perhaps for this reason, the data shows that a majority of “enlightened” leaders in the Antilles did not see independence as necessary to achieve an egalitarian society.

Importantly, a survey also showed that many leaders believed that independence was not politically or economically feasible at the time. While this hints at more cynical thinking regarding the relationship between colony/former colony and mother country, there is also strong evidence to support that the connection between the people of the French Antilles and French culture was equally as significant in terms of attitudes toward independence.

All in all, the study is a fascinating look at the attitudes of leaders in the Caribbean in the mid to late 1960s. Despite the sound methodology and the reasonable assumptions the author makes based on his findings, this seems to stand somewhat in contrast with Texaco, where overcrowding and poverty cannot be simply brushed aside by a sentence or a favorable comparison with Jamaica. In fact, the only point easily reconciled between study and novel is that the French Antilles enjoyed a relatively open society where there were less barriers to intermarriage. Indeed, Texaco spends a fair amount of words detailing the crumbling barriers between social strata and the changing realities faced by Fort-de-France’s various castes. It also shows a break between the author and the protagonist and Aime Cesaire, which perhaps hints that the enlightened leaders of Martinique were not entirely representative of their constituents.

Some Random and Barely Connected Thoughts on Our Recent Reading

6 Apr

Although Planet of Slums is chock full of shocking revelations and useful analysis, I was most taken with Davis’ illustration of just how global the issue is. Even in our class, which I believe to be made up of forward thinking, enlightened people, I think we have a tendency to equate “global” with “everything that’s not American” or, a bit more broadly, “African, South(east) Asian, or South American.” While Davis–as he should–focuses on cities such as Lagos, the evidence of this problem is as globe spanning as the roots are.

I still cannot truly fathom the slums of Lagos or Manila having never seen them but I believe we see the slum problem manifest itself here in this city. As America has urbanized, Wards 7 and 8 have dramatically declined. While I worked at the DC Dept. of Employment services, the citywide unemployment rate during and after the recession hovered around a depressing 12%, while the rate in Ward 8 was closer to 30%. As working class families, in many cases barely above the poverty line, were forced out of Northwest by increasingly expensive housing due (gentrification, but also economic downturn), neighborhoods east of the Anacostia river saw an uptick in overcrowded housing and crime.

Totaly unrelated to anything above:

I also think this is a good week to mention a bit of overlap between my Film class, which is focused on Alfonso Cuarón. Prof. Middents has introduced to us the idea of transnational cinema with the chief examples being the films of Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, which is interesting in light of the criticisms that we are exploring of not only capitalism but neoliberalism.

In Y Tu Mama Tambien, Cuarón intersperses bits of political commentary, including references to the Zapatistas and the first electoral defeat of the neoliberal PRI party in 70 years. In Children of Men, Cuarón explores the slums of a future UK that is the stable country left after 18 years of global infertility.

The idea of transnational cinema and Cuarón’s ability to show similar issues in vastly different productions–particularly productions that use cast, crew, and money from multiple countries–seems worth exploring in light of this Global Novel course. If you have been interested by the subject matter of our more recent reading, I would recomment Cuarón and González Iñárritu.

The Bigger Picture

29 Mar

Oil and Water is an admirable novel. One of the chief obstacles in presenting the story of the Niger Delta to a global audience (OoW has truly reached a global audience, being translated into many languages) is turning staggering information regarding environmental damages and human casualties into something understandable on a human level. One of Habila’s achievements is creating a narrative that avoids a simple and obvious binary while providing a vivid description of the hard truths about the region, achieving a political (and moral) goal through a seemingly simple first person narrative.

Mirroring the author, Rufus is set in motion by the kidnapping of Isabel. Henshaw admonishes him for focusing on the kidnapping, “Is that all you want from me, to tell you whether some foreign hostage is alive or not? Who is she in the context of the war that’s going on out there, the hopes and ambitions being created and destroyed? Can’t you see the larger picture?” The quote could be read as the author questioning himself and opening the novel to bigger ideas than the search for the kidnapped woman or perhaps instructing the reader to not limit themselves to a surface level reading. Rufus pieces together the larger picture by gathering nearly everyone’s story, from militants, to villagers, to Saloman. Only the delta villagers are presented as noble or completely helpful. No others–not the militants, the military, or the existing newspapers–are spared at least a somewhat unflattering presentation.

Rufus’ journey paints a bleak picture, one not lacking in complexity. One of the best bits of writing is when one of the captive militants says, “We have a slight problem, that’s all. Each of us is here for a different reason.” The delta not only suffers from the conflict between the militants and the oil company (and, by proxy, the Nigerian military) but also from the different militant groups who counterintuitively have different goals and operate in different ways, none of them less harmful to the villagers and the land than the other.

Kathleen rightly points out the novel’s ambiguous ending and how that ties into the idea that there is no satisfactory solution for the situation in the delta. I believe the ending also purposefully veers away from Isabel as a sign that Rufus has seen the larger picture. The real purpose of Rufus’ journey was to chronicle everything he had seen, from the damage to the land to the hypocrisy of the Professor (“everything we do is for the people”). Isabel’s fate was never that important after all.

I would remiss to not also mention that in addition to a solid event plot story, Habila creates powerful and evocative images. The worshipers trying to wash the blood spots from their robes and the dousing of a man in oil are unforgettable. Occasionally, the author provides bits of wisdom such as “educate yourself and you will see the world in a different way,” but avoids making OoW overtly didactic.

Last semester, Marionne Ingram, a holocaust survivor and author, spoke with my creative nonfiction workshop. Her goal in writing was inspire humanity to avoid repeating the atrocities she had witness but her method was not to produce work that was prescriptive to akin to an op-ed but to chronicle the atrocities as accurately as possible and thus leave the reader with no option but to reach the conclusion she desired. Habila has produced a similar result with OoW. Unlike the holocaust, however, his own native tragedy continues to this day.

Resistance is Not Futile

1 Mar

Perhaps Salih’s greatest achievement in Season of Migration to the North is resistance. While the parallels with Heart of Darkness–both obvious and not–are a major feature of the novel, Salih does not limit himself to a simple contrapuntal work, but instead appropriates and reverses various images from Conrad, seemingly to show that Arab literature is not all that different from Western literature. In this way, Salih has written a novel for all mankind.

The narrator (I don’t think it is a huge leap to assume that he gives voice to Salih’s personal philosophies) says on page 89, “How strange! How ironic! Just because a man has been created on the Equator some mad people regard him as a slave, others as a god. Where lies the mean? Where the middle way?” While he is referring specifically to the British, the narrator is seeking a middle way for much of the novel. He resists the same temptation that Mustafa Sae’ed succumbed to by choosing to return to the Sudan rather than attempt a career in Britain but he also wants to resist the conventions of his village, as represented by Mahjoub’s somewhat backward thinking about women. With the village, he fails, allowing the tragic marriage to happen but this is a practical decision, not a philosophical one.

The narrator seems to favor a humanist philosophy. Salih imbues the unnamed man with strong opinions regarding women and multicultural understanding, but also gives us a frustratingly passive character who fails to achieve anything toward his goals. In this way, Salih seems to provide a voice for those with an “enlightened” or conciliatory philosophy but resists lionizing them by representing them (himself?) with a passive character whose chief action is to not commit suicide.

Not drowning in the Nile, unreliably justified by the narrator (although sometimes you really just want a cigarette), is also resistance. Not drowning is a rejection of Mustafa. I would like to think that the conclusion somehow demonstrates the narrator finally finding a “middle way” and I see the resistance to following the same path as Mustafa, but I’m unsure of what other extreme the narrator is resisting. Any ideas?

Literary Labels as an Othering Force

22 Feb

Fanon writes, “I believe that the fact of a juxtaposition of the white and black races has created a massive psychoexistential complex. I hope by analyzing it to destroy.”

One of the most regrettable behaviors in literature is the pidgeonholing of work. “Queer lit,” “African-American lit,” “feminist lit,” etc. While these labels are often apt and speak to the subject matter, they give no indication of style and expose the unfortunate part of human nature that leads us to limit our consumption to work that deals with people like us. Furthermore, we are committing that most terrible sin: judging work by different standards. It seems condescending to think that there are different standards for African American literature (or African literature for that matter). This seems related to ideas that Said rejected.

The tendency is somewhat understandable and at times necessarily for practical and consumerist reasons, but it seems to reinforce divisions. By attaching these labels, we create the juxtaposition that Fanon writes about. One might assume that the labels exist, in part, to separate these works from predominantly white literature or the literary canon. For example, it seems that we are sometimes saying “this is good for Middle Eastern literature” instead of “this is good literature.” That creates a dynamic that is not entirely constructive. 

The flip side of this that these genres or subgenres add a great deal of texture. If we read, say, a work of African-American lit, it not only presents the reader with a well crafted and entertaining story, but a story that enhances our understanding of the African-American experience. This seems to be of literary value and also socially conscious. It would seem like a mistake not to read Cesaire as Martiniquan or black literature. Also, in light of Cesaire’s chosen subject matter, it would also be incredibly contrived to discuss the work as not Martiniquan or not a statement on being the other.

In some cases, it seems important that authors work under these labels so as not to be confused with those who would wear the “white mask” that Fanon writes of. In other cases, it seems that society is using these labels as to intentionally segregate “literature” from black or queer or third world literature as if those works would not stand up outside their own literary realm. Of course, it can and should be argued that these same labels put Caribbean literature on an equal plane with British literature by virtue of the admission that the Caribbean or Africa or the Middle East have produced works that can be called literature. It is more problematic to consider the question: if there is black literature does that mean that so many other works belong to “white” literature?

I know, of course, that these labels are largely innocuous or, at best, extremely useful for scholars. The labels are also reflective of a reality created after centuries of colonialism and oppression, a reality that many of us regret and attempt to remedy but a reality all the same. I am not arguing to the cessation of these labels, but I think it is worth noting why they sometimes stick in my throat.

Why Can’t We Have It All?

14 Feb

I would like to challenge the notion that the merit of a Marxist reading of The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (PMBC) goes deeper than “only” reading it as a sort of proto-postmodern text. Firstly, this idea fails to notice what I believe to be an important but elusive connection between the Marxist reading and the novel’s great influence on the more cynical postmodern novels of the 20th century. One of the traps of academic writing is the use of onlyone lens through which to view literature and  another, equally limiting trap is the conflation of analysis that goes beyond authorial intent with analysis that dare not take author intent into account.

The Marxist analysis by Schwarz in A Master on the Periphery of Capitalism (MPC) is incredibly useful. It allows the reader to move beyond appreciation for PMBC’s ironic send up of the Brazilian bourgeoisie as entertainment and to analyze the hypocritical society exemplified by the title character in terms of capitalism and colonialism and its less desirable effects. Sussing out the many contradictions represented by Cubas and his fellow characters (his relation that treats religion mainly as ceremony and not as spiritual comes to mind) is key in seeing the true value of the novel as effective literature.

Despite the usefulness of Schwarz, PMBC must be seen as both a Marxist text and an early example of postmodern metafiction to be fully appreciated and, indeed, the postmodern/metafiction reading lends itself to Marxist ideas. If we accept that one of the recognizable features of postmodern literature is a sort of rejection of the idea of narrative and that Capitalism has survived in small part thanks to a widely believed and flawed narrative, these two approaches to reading are profoundly connected.

The idea that capitalism replaces older societal orders with a sort of meritocratic pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality is the flawed narrative. We see the failure of the industrious but morally lacking (Marcela) and Cubas himself is a pseudo intellectual, undeserving of his wealth. The rejection of narratives seems to relate quite well to exposing the contradictions of capitalism, thus the two approaches can go hand in hand.

On a loosely related note, the idea of rejecting authorial intent seems untenable if not counterproductive. Schwarz himself cannot keep from commenting on the author’s intent. The critic writes, “With Malice and intelligence, Machado made sure he provided an abundance of cliches, always place in compromising positions.” There are further examples of Schwarz analyzing Machado de Assis’ hostile structure and prose.

One of the great joys of reading PMBC is Machado’s use of literary references and the other trappings of the mainstream writing of his time even as he toys with traditional structure. I believe this is done not just to frustrate or entertain (Schwarz calls the preface’s satire “bland”, which is infuriating) but rather to satire the form itself (an important component of metafiction is exposing artifice of a form through that very same form, see Patricia Waugh’s Metafiction). Exposing the contradictions and failings of society is no more or less important than exposing the weakness or arbitrary nature of that society’s literature and does not come into conflict with a Marxist reading.

In summary, I believe that is is far more illuminating to allow for multiple readings of PMBC. The postmodern/metafiction reading seems to dovetail nicely with Schwarz’s Marxist reading. For students, this may be the best use of our time, as Schwarz has already provided a lengthy and venerable volume of Marxist analysis. If only there were more time…

Wide Sargasso Sea as Literary Achievement

8 Feb

A reductive explanation of Wide Sargasso Sea (WSS) would be “a 1960’s novel that serves as a revisionist complement to Jane Eyre that fleshes out the story of Bertha.” This would leave one to expect a post modern novel that revised the Bertha character in light of evolving social attitudes. That would not necessarily be wrong. One might also expect the novel to challenge and outright reject imperialist ideas of the Caribbean and its people as savage and unknowable and, perhaps, as sinful or morally ambiguous. That would be off the mark.

Rhys places Bertha/Antoinette on a cultural island of her own. As a White Creole she is looked down upon by Europeans and Jamaicans (and Dominicans). We might have expected Rhys to portray the British/Europeans as the villains but, while Rochester (or the character we must assume is Rochester) is not painted in a positive light, the Jamaicans in Part One and Amelie in Part Two serve as antagonists along with Antoinette’s new husband. This strikes me as a laudable literary choice, going beyond a more simplistic flipping of “good” and “bad” characters. For example, in Wicked, Maguire simply makes the Wicked Witch/Elpheba the sympathetic protagonist and Oz, Dorthy, etc. the antagonists. Rhys largely takes morality out of the equation and uses Antoinette’s White Creole status, as well as her position as the daughter of a slave owner, as a device to create conflict and isolation for the character, thus creating a compelling and effective narrative.

The most revisionist element of WSS is the unnamed version of Rochester. Rather than the enlightened, sophisticated, and Byronic figure of Jane Eyre, Rochester displays close minded attitudes that seem in step with the time of the story but must have been a deliberate choice by a writer in the 1960’s to point out embarrassing aspects of imperialist thinking. It is ironic and hypocritical that Rochester comments “Nothing that I told [Antoinette] influenced her at all,” (56) when he makes little effort to understand his new bride or the cultures he finds himself surrounded by. These attitudes go hand-in-hand with his imprisonment and, if I may, emotional abuse of Antoinette but they are not all that make up the character. His actions may not be easily excusable, but they do not lack explanation. He is not a moustache twirling cartoon villain.

As the footnotes in the Norton Critical Edition illuminate for the reader, WSS takes into account a variety of historical developments. However, it does not act as an allegory for the experience of one particular group or another. Antoinette’s story is not limited to a representation of the White Creole or former planter experience. Nor are black Caribs limited to one stock type. Instead, Rhys writes three dimensional characters who are rarely presented as acting in a completely moral manner. Indeed, she does not strip Antoinette/Bertha of the madness portrayed in Jane Eyre, but rather offers up a more fleshed out character, allowing the reader to understand Antoinette’s madness, but not going so far as to ask the reader to excuse it.

From the workshop/MFA point of view, Rhys’ greatest achievement is verisimilitude. This is a result of characters that are, at times, morally ambiguous and resist the more contemporary tendency toward social responsibility in literature in lieu of honest portrayals that suit the narrative rather than another agenda. While WSS presents the “other” of Jane Eyre as more than “unknowable” or a simple cliche, it does not go so far as to cast Antoinette as morally upright, allowing the novel to serve as a companion to Eyre but not as a complete rejection of Bronte’s work. Because Rhys has prioritised character and verisimilitude, WSS can stand on its own as a work of literature.

How Should We Read?

1 Feb

“Show me the Zulu Tolstoy,” Said quotes (25). He is quoting Saul Bellow, who sparked controversy by speaking to the differences in “literate” and “preliterate” societies. Said is pointing to attitudes that many Westerners are completely unaware they demonstrate. I’m not sure those distinctions hold any water, but the way that Bellow posed rhetorical questions such as where is “the Proust of the Papuans” speaks to our (by “our,” I mean Westerners) constant desire to couch things in terms of analogs. Bellow seems to be dismissing the idea that authors from various cultures might not using the same form as Tolstoy or Proust. Beyond this, you could ask “Where is the Tolstoy of America?” or perhaps more importantly, and relevant to our discussion about the nature of time, “Where is the Tolstoy of today?” All this is to say that, in general, we are using the wrong criteria when we read and think about non-Western literature.

After reading the Said, what boggles my mind is that literature from imperial Western culture has often been affecting other cultures for decades or perhaps centuries. Culturally the imperialist cultures continued to dominate (or think they were dominating) the cultures in the physical colonies the imperialists left behind. If that is true, I would imagine a good question to ask about any work of literature from the post-colonial culture is whether it is reacting to or imitating Western/imperialist by rejecting a Tolstoy or a Proust or whether the literature is an organic hybrid of style and form found in the culture before its encounter with a Britain or a France and the Western literature that the former colony was exposed to over many years. Said writes of Rushdie’s rejection of a certain version of India in popular media, which would seem to inform Rushdie’s work (Midnight’s Children comes to mind). One of the things I’m very much looking forward to this semester is judging how much global literature is pushing back against popular media or other literature by presenting and alternate viewpoint, and how many of those works are using forms identified heavily with British, French, or American literature.

Said rejects the idea of Germanness or Jewishness, etc. This seems important in finding the right lens through which to view literature this semester. But, in place of seeking analogs, if we look for the differences in literature, are we showing that there is no such thing as “Third Worldliness” or will those differences feed into the idea that there can be Dominicanness or Martininqueness? I can’t think of a way to start thinking about our post-Heart of Darkness readings that would not really piss off Said. Do we even need a lens or do we simply look at the subject matter and not the style or the form as evidence of how imperialism continues to exert control over various cultures?