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Prose of the WorldModernism and the Banality of Empire$
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Saikat Majumdar

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156950

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156950.001.0001

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Poetics of the Prosaic

Poetics of the Prosaic

(p.1) Introduction Poetics of the Prosaic
Prose of the World

Saikat Majumdar

Columbia University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book identifies the way the banality of everyday life and the boredom that often accompanies it paradoxically shape a narrative instinct along the margins of the global British Empire from late colonial modernism to the present day, as revealed in the fiction of four writers: James Joyce from Ireland, Katherine Mansfield from New Zealand, Zoë Wicomb from South Africa, and Amit Chaudhuri from India. This is a body of English-language fiction in which the banality of everyday life comes to define a globally mappable narrative impulse that has mostly been understood in a linear continuity with the formal innovations of metropolitan modernism. Instead, the book proposes a reading in which this impulse narrativizes a colonial problematic that significantly shapes the innovative aesthetics of literary modernism. If narrative is triggered by the tremor, velocity, and eventually the excitement of the event, the temporal and affective lack embodied in the banal in these late colonial and postcolonial fictions comes to shape a narrative impulse that is aesthetically oppositional. It is this oppositionality that has primarily been interpreted in terms of literary modernism's radical aesthetic. Rather than being driven predominantly by the subjective idiosyncrasy of formal experimentation, it is suggested that the narrative energization of banality is just as significantly rooted in the social experience of colonial modernity.

Keywords:   banality, banalization, boredom, everyday life, colonial modernity, empire, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Zoë Wicomb, Amit Chaudhuri

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