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Critique and Utopia in Postcolonial Historical FictionAtlantic and Other Worlds$
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Greg Forter

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198830436

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198830436.001.0001

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Tragedy, Romance, Satire

Tragedy, Romance, Satire

The Genres of Anticolonial Resistance in J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur and Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women

(p.96) 3 Tragedy, Romance, Satire
Critique and Utopia in Postcolonial Historical Fiction

Greg Forter

Oxford University Press

This chapter challenges David Scott’s contention that we should shift from Romance to tragedy in recounting the history of colonialism’s overcoming. This shift in genre means, for Scott, moving from a pre-Foucauldian understanding of power to a Foucauldian view in which the institutions of colonial modernity produce the colonized subject—and hence, cannot be meaningfully overthrown. J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur and Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women subvert Scott’s oppositions and reveal the limits of his prescriptions. Farrell’s text develops a satirical form that, in its depiction of the Indian Mutiny, exposes British power-knowledge as an ideological mystification for which there is indeed an “outside”—namely, the Indians’ insurrectionary agency. James’s text shows how power on the colonial plantation relied on the spectacle of the scaffold rather than the insidious tentacles of disciplinary power. The scaffold functioned to prohibit both full humanity and interracial “love,” Enlightenment promises that only the violence of slave rebellion could hope to fulfil.

Keywords:   colonial modernity, David Scott, Michel Foucault, romance, tragedy, satire, slave rebellions, Indian Mutiny, J. G. Farrell, Marlon James

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