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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26507

Title: Between Myth and Meaning: The Function of Myth in Four Postcolonial Novels
Authors: Halpe, Aparna
Advisor: Kanaganayakam, Chelva
Department: English
Keywords: English Literature
Postcolonial fiction
Issue Date: 16-Mar-2011
Abstract: In Anglophone postcolonial fiction of the twentieth century, myth is used as a framing device that contains and interrogates historical event, thereby functioning as a form of alternative history. Despite the prevalence of cross-cultural symbolic systems and radically hybrid forms of narration, the dominant method of reading myth in postcolonial literary criticism remains dependent on conceptual models that construct myth as originary racial narrative. This particular approach fosters readings of contemporary secular myths of “nation”, “land” or “identity” within culturally monolithic frames. I scrutinize the intersections between early structuralist approaches to myth, and later post-structuralist deconstruction of myth and suggest a postcolonial reading of myth as the ideological coded middle space between sacred and secular narrative. Focusing on four novels from Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Caribbean, I demonstrate the continued influence and adaptability of myth to narrate vastly different historical and socio-cultural contexts. Taking into account several major shifts in the conceptualization of twentieth-century myth criticism , I develop a critical vocabulary for comparative readings of myth which interrogates existing discourses on the categories of “archetype”, “ideology” and “symbol”. My approach is comparativist, and foregrounds the importance of locating myth within literary and socio-cultural context. The introduction to this study defines the field of myth criticism in relation to postcolonial fiction. I provide outlines of the theoretical positions drawn from Carl Gustav Jung, Roland Barthes, Northrop Frye and Bruce Lincoln and demonstrate the relevance of each in relation to reading myth in the four novels under survey. The first chapter looks at the way Alfred Yuson exposes mythic constructions of Filipino identity in The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café (1987). The second chapter provides a comparative study of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (1992) and Allan Sealy's The Everest Hotel A Calender (1998). This chapter analyzes Ondaatje and Sealy's employment of the Fisher King myth as a device for narrating radically different visions of postcolonial community. The third chapter analyzes the function of archetype as a vehicle for ideology in Wilson Harris's Jonestown (1996). The conclusion of this study suggests the way this method of analysis can provoke further critical inquiry in the field of postcolonial myth criticism.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26507
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