Literary studies and criticism

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Literary studies and criticism according to Amechi Akwanya in his Literary Criticism: From Formal to Question of Method, is an endeavor that seeks to separate the poetic from the non-poetic and explains that for this to take place there must be a standard (Akwanya 5). When he talks of the standard, he talks of the theory and concepts, some sort of prism through which a work will be seen and understood better. Talking of the qualities the theory would possess Jonathan Culler. tells in his Literary Theory: A Short Introduction that: “The nature of theory is to undo, through a contesting of premises and postulates, what you thought you knew, so the effects of theory are not predictable… You reflect on your reading in new ways” (Culler 16).  He gave four points after a critical study of Foucault, Derrida, Rousseau, which are: theory is interdisciplinary, analytical, and speculative, reflexive in nature and finally is a critique of common sense (Culler 14 – 15). The interdisciplinary aspect of these critical tools as Culler has opined somehow agrees with Terry Eagleton who says that: “On the contrary, they (the theories) all emerged from other areas of the humanities, and have implications well beyond literature itself.” This chapter will look at the border theory and its usefulness in literary studies. It will also consider how we will use it in this study.

3.1 Border Theory

Border as we have seen earlier is a word that brings so many things into contestation, a location of so many arguments and a point of contact between so many things. In “A Sense of Border”, Sarah Green, makes the idea of border clear. She opines that “many borders are supposed to act as barriers, intended to control the movement of things, people, and sometimes also ideas, between one place and another” (“A Sense of Border” 576). Using Veiveros de Castro’s understanding of Amerindian cosmology, where “differences exist in knowledge that are not so much a matter of different perspectives, but rather a matter of different experiences, meant in literal, sensory terms”, Green makes a case for the meaning of border. (580). It would be understood from here that the individual experience of the border is peculiar and so important. So, she categorizes border under multiplicity and chaos; post-Westphalian border and tidemarks, indexicality and relational location. While multiplicity and chaos point to the colonial factor and the coercion of distinct peoples into a disorder called state in Africa, post-Westphalian border refers to the presence of ideologies that militate freedom of movement especially in the western world – the selective acceptance of what comes in, the idea of ‘smart border’ (584). Tidemarks, indexicality and relational location refer to the fact that border might just be an indication to a location where several social components of life interact with themselves, in her words “a place, within which, somewhere, different entities overlap” (587). Green seems at this point to be echoing Schimanski and Wolfe who suggest that these borders are more of symbols and so, are infused with “a spatial dimension; they are manifested as spatial borders either within the real, topographical world or within a mental map, an imaginary geography (Said 1991) or a more intimate topology of, for instance, the body…” (“Cultural Production and Negotiation of Borders: Introduction to the Dossier” 3 – 4). Madia or even the text would serve as a location where there is an interaction between politics, gender, and social norms.

If border itself could not mean one thing, how is one sure that its theory would be pointing to a specific ideology? Alejandro Lugo helps position this question better when he asks: “If we wanted to carry out archaeology of border theory, how would we identify its sources and its targets? Where would we locate its multiple sites of production and consumption, formation, and transformation? What are the multiple discourses producing images of borders almost everywhere, at least in the minds of academics?” (“Reflections on Border Theory, Culture, and the Nation” 44). He recognizes that it is better not to give a singular definition of border theory and furthermore, suggests that within its periphery, are:

previously marginalized intellectuals within the academy (i.e., women and other minorities), the outer limits of the nation-state (i.e., the U.S.-Mexico border region), the frontiers of culture theory (i.e., cultural borderlands vis-a-vis cultural patterns), the multiple fronts of struggle in cultural studies (i.e., the war of position), the cutting edge (at the forefront) of theories of difference (i.e., race, class, gender, and sexual orientation), and finally (at) the crossroads of history, literature, anthropology, and sociology (i.e., cultural studies). (44)

It becomes clear that at border theory, situations/experiences, academic fields, politics, and nationalism converge. Schimanski and Wolfe agree with this and name geography: social and political geography, literary and cultural studies and sociology, where “border concept is often used for more symbolic types of the border, such as the borders between cultures, genders or classes” among the academic fields ((“Cultural Production and Negotiation of Borders: Introduction to the Dossier” 3 – 4).

There is special attention drawn to identity and political realities in border studies. Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan think that “all the approach to border studies is an effort to the investigation of hybridity, creolization, multiculturalism, postcolonialism and many other central concerns of social theory today” (“Borders and Border Studies” 2). They also suggest that border theory “seeks answers to questions about how identity, territory and the state are interrelated in the formation of the self and of group identification” (3). This same idea is seen present in Lugo’s suggestion that: ‘“border theory itself can contribute effectively to the exploration of these limits, as long as it is recognized to be (as theories of social life tend to be) a product of the codification of a ‘multiplicity of force relations … which by virtue of their inequalities, constantly engender states of power”’ (Lugo 46). Of course, he talks of this with reference to literary and cultural criticism. In literary criticism, Stephen Wolfe talks of critics that “seem at times to be united in their attempts to disclose, representations as the disembodied voices of ancestors, forgotten history, disfigured and decentered subalterns who have been distanced, displaced, and relocated out of sight” (“Reanimating the Dead: Suggestions toward the Analysis of a Brontë Border Narrative” 90). All this point to Green’s opinion that “most border studies focus on the subjects and objects of bordering practices more than they focus on borders” (“A Sense of Border 579). Wilson and Donnan see border poetics/theory as “a set of strategies for analyzing the successful or failed crossings of institutional, national, or generic borders” while suggesting that such crossing sometimes calls for story narration (Wilson and Donnan 10).

Understanding all these above sanctifies border theory for this study because border theory fits into Habib’s summary that:

Theory is a systematic explanation of practice or a situation of practice in broader framework; theory brings to light the motives behind our practice; it shows us the connection of practice to ideology, power structures, our own unconscious, our political and religious attitudes, our economic structures; above all, theory shows us that practice is not something natural but is a specific historical construct. (Habib 2).

3.2 Research Methodology

This research is going to be a qualitative one because it is a process of inquiry. Qualitative research according to Denzin and Lincoln makes sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of meanings people bring to them (Denzin and Lincoln 2). The effort here would be to read Arrows of rain to understand the sense in which body and border are represented in it.

First, the state, Madia country would be looked at to consider how colonialism and the existences of several ethnic groups have felt in it. The presence of changes in government and the general effects on the lives of the citizens would be evaluated. This will be the premise for which the character of Iyese will be singled out. Evaluating the country of this character would be very important because it would make understanding of the characters better. Also, Iyese would be studied for her role in bringing the narrative of the body home in the text. Iyese’s existence in Media, experiences (violations, abuse, and subjugation) and their reactions are the foundation on which the work is built. And then, the significance of Iyese in the text would be looked at because as has been said earlier, she is able to possess secondary meaning other than herself in the work. She is parallel to the concept of Madia in the text. Iyese’s ability to embody the country and the role of every character that came in contact plays would be given attention.

This study would lay its claim, hinging on the concept of corporeality, border theory and borrowing from the concept of the subaltern in postcolonialism. It would make use of available materials on the primary text, corporeality, subaltern and border theory in the analysis. Similar texts and texts studied with either the concepts or the theory would be brought in for comparative purposes.


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