The contributors to the present volume, in espousing and extending the programme of such writers as Edward Said, Benedict Anderson, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak, lay bare the genealogy of 'writing' empire (thereby, in a sense, '
un-writing' it). One focus is the Caribbean: the retrograde agenda of francophone
créolité; the re-writing of empire in the postmodern disengagement of Edouard Glissant; resistance to post-colonial allegiances, and the dissolving of binary categories, in contemporary West Indian writing. Essays on India, Malaysia, and Indonesia explore various aspects of cultural self-understanding in Asia: un-writing high culture through hybrid 'shopping' among Western styles; the use of indigenous oral forms to counter Western hegemony; romantic and anti-romantic attitudes towards empire and the land. A shift to Africa brings a study of Nadine Gordimer's feminist un-writing of Hemingway's masculinist colonising narrative, a searching analysis of Soyinka's restoration of ancient syncretic elements in his West African re-visions of Greek tragedy, changing evaluations of the validity of European civilization in André Gide's representations of Africa, and tensions of linguistic allegiance in Maghreb literature. North America, finally, is brought back into the imperial fold through discussions of Melville's re-writing of travel and captivity narratives to critique the mission of American empire, Leslie Marmon Silko's re-territorialization of expropriated Native American oral traditions, and Timothy Findley's representation of Canada's troubled involvement with its three shaping empires (French, British, American).
The actual practice of the study of world literature has almost invariably limited itself to studying the literatures of a very few major literatures. In fact, for the longest time world literature seemed to consist of only a few European literatures. Of late, this practice has come to be challenged from the perspective of other, non-European or non-Western, major literatures. But what in fact makes a literature qualify as major, or, inversely, as minor? What factors are involved: quantitative, qualitative, or yet other?