otago596053.pdf - 20 Regarding the Other f regarding the other postcolonial violations and ethical resistance in margaret atwood's bodily harm Simone

otago596053.pdf - 20 Regarding the Other f regarding the...

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f MFS Modern Fiction Studies , Volume 54 number 1, Spring 2008. Copyright © for the Purdue Research Foundation by the Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights to reproduction in any form reserved. REGARDING THE OTHER : POSTCOLONIAL VIOLATIONS AND ETHICAL RESISTANCE IN MARGARET ATWOOD ' S BODILY HARM Simone Drichel The sky calls for a gaze other than that of a vision that is already an aiming and proceeds from need and to the pursuit of things. It calls for eyes purified of covetousness, a gaze other than that of the hunter with all his ruse, awaiting the capture. —Emmanuel Levinas, God, Death, and Time Never one to mince his words, Terry Eagleton opens his now infamous review of Gayatri Spivak's Critique of Post-Colonial Reason, "In the Gaudy Supermarket," in typically irreverent fashion: "There must exist somewhere a secret handbook for post-colonial critics, the first rule of which reads: 'Begin by rejecting the whole notion of post-colonialism'" (3). Though his provocative quip probably reveals more about the reviewer than about the subject matter under review, Eagleton does strike at what is indeed a widespread phenomenon in current postcolonial criticism. Ken Gelder, for example, in a review article of three diverse introductions to postcolonial theory dating
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Drichel 21 from the late 1990s, 1 observes that, unlike the pioneering The Empire Writes Back , which arrived with a tone of jubilation and celebration of the field in 1989, more recent postcolonial critics are anxious to include disclaimers that clearly signal their critical position vis-à-vis the field they (re)present: "Instead of enchantment and belief, the authors of these three new primers on postcolonial theory are mostly skeptical of the field they help to constitute. The only relation one can have with postcolonial theory, they suggest, is a critical one" (82). In a similar fashion, Donald R. Wehrs opens his 2004 article, "Sartre's Legacy in Postcolonial Theory," with a statement that echoes Eagleton's in sentiment, if not in tone, when he observes that it "has become commonplace within postcolonial studies to lament the colonizing propensities of postcolonial studies." It appears that post- colonial critics (not to mention critics of postcolonialism), now regard the "post" of postcolonialism as an all-too-fragile boundary from the embarrassments witnessed under the reign of its predecessor, the "colonial," and respond to this concern with incessant self-critique. Postcolonial studies as a field is therefore now at a point where it is apparently characterized by no other quality more than what Wehrs calls a "guilty conscience" (761), a persistent anxiety that its potential complicity with the very thing it opposes might call into question its own raison d'être . Given the pervasiveness of such a "guilty consciousness" in postcolonial criticism, it is perhaps surprising that postcolonialism's (potential) alliance with ethics and, specifically, the ethical promise that Emmanuel Levinas sees in such a guilty conscience, has not been given more attention. In fact, considering not just this recent
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