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Exploited Edens: paradise discourse in colonial and postcolonial literature

By Sharae Grace Deckard

Abstract

This thesis examines the relation between figures of paradise and the ideologies and economies of colonialism, imperialism, and global capitalism, arguing that paradise myth is the product of a value-laden discourse related to profit, labour, and exploitation of resources, both human and environmental, which evolves in response to differing material conditions and discursive agendas. The literature of imperialism and conquest abounds with representations of colonies as potential gold-lands to be mined materially or discursively: from the EI Dorado of the New World and the 'infernal paradise' of Mexico, to the 'Golden Ophir' of Africa and the 'paradise of dharma' of Ceylon. Most postcolonial analyses of paradise discourse have focused exclusively on the Caribbean or the South Pacific, failing to acknowledge the appearance of fantasies of paradise in association with Africa and Asia. Therefore, my thesis not only performs a comparative reading of marginalized paradisal topoi and tropes related to Mexico, Zanzibar, and Ceylon, but also uncovers literature from these regions which has been overlooked in mainstream postcolonial .criticism, mapping the circulations, continuities, and reconfigurations of the paradise myth as it travels across colonie{and continents, empires and ideologies. My analysis of these three regions is divided into six chapters, the first of each section excavating colonial uses ofthe paradise myth and constructing its genealogy for that particular region, the second investigating revisionary uses of the motif by postcolonial writers including Malcolm Lowry, Wilson Harris, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and Romesh Gunesekera. I address imperialist discourse from outside the country in conjunction with discourse from within the independent nation in order to demonstrate how paradise begins as a literal topos motivating European exploration and colonization, develops into an ideological myth justifying imperial praxis and economic exploitation, and [mally becomes a literary motif used by contemporary postcolonial writers to challenge colonial representations and criticize neocolonial conditions

Topics: PL
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1139

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