The first half of class involved Michelle’s and KY’s presentation that focused on nationalism and language. Some of the major questions were how language is a tool of colonialism, and how is it a tool of nationalism? During KY’s presentation and subsequent discussion the focus switched to what he brought up in his last slide. We discussed modernism as it is linked to the 18C philosophy of individualism. This, in turn, led to the question of whether or not Joyce as a colonized writer is proposing a more traditional brand of nationalism or one that embraces the colonial past. During the second half of the class, we heard Rebekah and Praseeda’s presentation on the figure of the artist. This involved thinking of the artist as a product of modernity who exhibits “symptoms” of someone who lives in the urban metropolis. This presentation also discussed the role of the epiphany and how it engages with or reacts to exile. Epiphanies separates character from their authors and exiles from their past.
The main example used in the second half of class was that of Daedalus and Icarus, and how Stephen thought of himself as both. There was also the example of an epiphany when Stephen saw the woman in the sea and how it made him accept his own nature.
I have decided to use this as a way to start a few thoughts that I might delve deeper into for my paper. I came across an interesting idea in a piece from another class by Shamsul A.B. called “A History of an Identity, and Identity of a History.” Shamsul talks about how the British employed ‘modalities’ in order to classify the colonial world/project. They used these modalities to make policies, textbooks, maps, basically anything that gave the information of the region. One of the modalities Shamsul mentioned was the ‘travel modality.’ It helped to “create a repertoire of images and typifications, if not stereotypes, that determined what was significant to European eyes…these aesthetic images and typifications were frequently expressed in paintings and prints as well as in novels and short stories.” As I read this I started thinking about Modernism within the travel modality. How does it function? Is it just another way to view tourism or was it an instigator of images and possibly even stereotypes? This might lead me to compare two of the books or pieces we’ve read in class or maybe I’ll find a different book. It might be interesting to compare Orwell with Wallace in that Wallace was writing a non-fictional piece that was supposed to be very factual whereas Orwell’s pieces are fictional. How do both speak about the travel modality? I think that by looking at the travel modality it could open up a few different perspectives on the reasons the colonial world was represented in the way it was.
I would just like to briefly run through a few things I found interesting in Woolfe’s piece, “Growing.” First of all I would like to mention his literary style. I find it funny that he can put in so many details when he recalls a story. For instance, he makes sure to tell readers what side of the island he was on when a certain incident happened. However, there are many times when he blatantly says he doesn’t remember specifics about certain incidents. Of course, this is probably attributed to the fact that he had letters and his own journal entries that aided him in recalling specifics of incidents, but it comes across as paradoxical and gives the whole piece the tone of an old man telling his grandchildren about when he was an imperialist.
This brings me to my next point. The section where he describes when he first began to realize what it meant to be an imperialist was an eye-opener. It made me realize that young civil servants at the time came to the colonies because it was viewed as just another job. He talks about having to put on a façade in order to live and work in the colonies. However, I don’t think he viewed the façade and imperialism, as he came to understand it, together until he was being accused of striking Mr. Harry Sanderasekara.
Just a couple of the things I enjoyed about the piece. There were some images and turns of phrase that were comedic. The inclusion of photographs made the reading much more real, but at the same time contributed to a sense of the surreal in Woolfe’s recorded memories. I think it will be interesting to compare this piece to Burmese Days in that there are a lot of similarities. However, the tone is totally different.
Wallace’s article was unexpected to me. Either I had forgotten what had been said in class about the context in which it was written, or the context was never brought up in discussion. So I went into the reading thinking that it would be an academic article from our time and was extremely surprised to find comments such as “I am inclined to rank the Dyaks above the Malays in mental capacity, while in moral character they are undoubtedly superior to them,” (68). It is interesting though that Wallace’s piece was considered an academic article in his time. The things he shared were considered unchallenged knowledge about a people and area of the world. I suppose that the first half of the article could have been judged as subjective by some readers even then, but the latter half, which talks mostly about his encounters with bugs, birds, and nature, was meant to be read as very factual and full of biological evidence. From a modern perspective though even the “science” in the piece is undermined by the mentality with which he views the Dyaks, Malays, Siamese, and all other races he mentions.
But I agree with one of the posts that brings up the question of the perspective we inevitably bring to the reading. There is probably something that we are not seeing and that we feel cannot be made visible unless we somehow revert back to colonial mentalities. If this was something that influenced Conrad when writing Lord Jim, it makes me wonder how what we read and take in as facts, science, truth, and knowledge affects our writing. It can be argued that literature helped to perpetuate imperialism so it is not so far-fetched to think that the literature our generation produces will help to create history as well.
Gikandi’s article was a good example of the main question where it concerns modernism and its influences. I think, historically, Western art has been systematically flooded then drained of it’s influences in an attempt to preserve what is considered high culture. It became more and more prevalent with the addition of modernism to the repertoire. If modernism is about perspective, illumination, and the importance of representation, then it makes sense that artists like Picasso and even E.M. Forster would want to explore what they were seeing in Britain’s colonial strongholds. However, all this has led to questions similar to what Gikandi presents–what he talks about as the ‘difference that haunts and maintains [modernism].’ The difference between Western art and so-called colonial art and the consequential denial of influence. It is really an interesting aspect of modernism. When we look at history, the facts are that Britain claimed India and many other places in the world. It was a source of pride, economic flourishing, and political importance. Looking at London’s metropolitan culture today, it would be extremely difficult to deny the influence colonialism had on the empire itself. Yet simultaneously modernism keeps its hold on culture without admitting that the relationship is more mutual, rather like two children in a three-legged race.