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UPDATE: Unreliability as a Narrative Trope in Postcolonial Literature: NeMLA April 7-10, 2011; submissions due September 30th
full name / name of organization:
North East Modern Languge Association
Unreliability is a common trope in postcolonial literature, which manipulates narrative focalization and uses unreliable narrators to criticize the possibility of a single reliable perspective. The absence of reliable counter perspectives to balance the unreliable narrator highlights the impossibility of recovering the past, authentic identity categories and representing the other. The absence of a reliable perspective in postcolonial novels exposes ontological uncertainties, futility of the search for authenticity, power imbalances and differential experience of history. The absence of a reliable perspective in these novels thus brings together the political, ethical and aesthetic. As a literary practice it places signal demands on the reader to recognize the singularity of the aesthetic work as Derek Attridge puts it. It thus raises questions about the role of the reader, and the ethics of representation.
Postcolonial literature’s use of the unreliable narrator to rescind reliability as a narrative function differentiates it from the use of the third-person narrator in 19th century literature, where the unreliable narrator’s perspective is balanced by a reliable counter perspective. Examining the use of the unreliable narrator to discredit possibility of a single reliable perspective in postcolonial literature reminds us that literature’s effects are “not predictable enough to serve a political and moral program”(Attridge 4). It thus forces us to rethink of literature’s relation with the political and the relation between the reader, writer and text. .
This panel seeks papers that address the absence of reliable perspective as an aesthetic, ethical or political practice in postcolonial literature. Papers on postcolonial novels, memoirs, travel writing and comparative studies of postcolonial and Western texts are welcome. Please send inquiries or 250-300 word abstract and a brief bio in MS word document or PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org, by September 30.