192/1030: “Bye noe”

It’s time to return to books. Not those bound things that are basically articles put together based on some sort of logic filled with words academics put together to gain prestige, position, or both (don’t get me wrong, I want to see my name in one of those things one day). I want to return to reading where I forget the work of the activity itself.  I think I’ve been bogged down in theory for so long, I forgot that I actually love to read and there are so many good stories still waiting to be read. I spent my morning in the library  (sounds so studious, until I write that it’s the first time since December). Then, on my way home, disinterested in most of my normal dinner reads, I picked up one of my books again and got lost in Zadie Smith’s London for an hour or so. Now, I feel much more inspired to provide a close-reading analysis than some more theory review. It’s easier, too…

NW is divided into four intertwined stories with the titles “visitation,” “guest,” “host,” and “crossing.” Each story has subtitles in a different style. Leah Hanwell’s story is in simple numbers. Felix Copper’s short life is divided into segments of a map, “NW6,” “(WI),”  and “NW6,” Natalie Blake is numbers and subject titles, quite correct but also fragmented glimpses that try to account for as much of her as possible. Finally, comes Nathan Bogle and another “visitation.” When Nathalie Blake/Keisha leaves her home, she wanders and we read how she goes up “Willesden Lane to Kilburn High Road,” and then “Shoot up the Green to Fortune Green,” traveling over NW. The way space is used in the novel is interesting and definitely worth a return visit, especially in light of some things I read recently in History, Memory and Migration, but wait, I wasn’t going to go into that, today. And talking about those titles wasn’t important at all to get into right now.

There are a lot of intermedial references in NW. We start off with Leah Hanwell considering a line she hears on the radio, repeating it over and over in her mind, hearing a neighbor talk on the phone, thinking about the gloss on a magazine, and papers falling, causing “World events and property and film and music” to lie in the grass (4). This is the internet age, the characters have computers, email addresses, chat spaces, and yet there’s an old school feel. They still get their news from papers, hear about it from one another via word of mouth…

The section that caught my eye for this blog post was chapter “123. Bye noe.” It consists of a web chat between Leah and Natalie/Keisha (there’s actually no specificity of the name, we only get the last name, so I don’t know if it’s Natalie or Keisha who makes this appearance, though it could be Keisha since she’s always Keisha online). Leah is the one who instigates the conversation, her type is bold and Natalie’s/Keisha’s (I’m going to guess that it’s a mix of both, since there’s Leah’s friend and the lawyer in this conversation) is not bolded. None follows capitalization convention, unless you count the fact that Leah cap locks her words when she’s mad and N/K cap locks the moments that are sarcastic. Finally, as far as the medium itself goes, we get the impression of overlapped generation of text, as each interrupts the other’s sentence throughout.

whats happening to
me too
universe?  (244)

Leah is responding to “cant believe you getting hitched” and N/K is already asking her question.

I notice a few significant things about this conversation.

First of all, it starts with Leah acknowledging her hesitancy to download something, I’m guessing its the program to private message. Both are at work, Leah working from a work computer and N/K probably on her phone. They joke and banter, and then Leah leads into the news she wants to share by asking N/K to locate herself in the time space continuum “free may sixth?” and then, after some silly then serious (self-acknowledgement) on N/K’s part, “lady jesus I am getting married” (243).  Leah is excited to tell her friend how it happened, why, how she’s doing it to please her fiance, her mother, “It’s what people do innit,” N/K is kind of distracted by work, wants to know if this means Leah is pregnant or will get pregnant, and then has a question for Leah that is confusing the first time one reads it, but then makes more sense after returning to it later. The question is never actually stated, Leah just answers it because she “iz mind reader for realz.” Something about having to give up people and “when all else fails: http://www.adultswatchingadults.com” (245).

Side note: if NW was an ebook and the hyperlink actually worked, would visiting the site be part of reading the book? Future hypertext fiction questions, my friends!

At any rate, the reference to the hyperlink is something that leads to a sort of climax for the whole novel, and I find it interesting that this moment is instigated by a web chat. We get the impression that N/K doesn’t answer for a while (and never responds directly to that), and then the conversation is over with “bye noe.” Not being a NW native, or even with the British slang, I had to look up “noe.” It’s basically an awesome, wonderful person. Someone you’re happy to be with/around. I guess that’s a fond sign off for the two of them, but I don’t know why Leah puts her “bye noe” in single quotes…

This is the point where I should get into explaining the significance of the intermedial reference (that is, why did this conversation happen in chat, not real time, and how successful is Smith in creating the impression of a chat room? (for example, the characters chose to capitalize their “I”s or use the single quote for the contraction or use txt spk). But, it’s also the moment where this gets hard and it’s 2240 on a Thursday and I already did some decent amount of work today, so bye.

Thanks for reading.

Work Cited:  Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.



33/1030: “Ethnocritique”

Today, I visited another class at the Uni to get an idea of other directions I could take my project, and realized I ended up looking at something that’s only a “thing” in France. When you look up “ethnocritique” in Google, all you get are French entries- and it’s because the term, meaning to use ethnographic tools to analyze literature, was only recently (1990) created in France. One looks at the anthropology of language, the cultural influence of artistic expression, and the ethnology of symbols.

However, that doesn’t mean I won’t have use for it. Bear with me, but here’s a French description from French Wikipedia: 

L’ethnocritique se situe dans l’héritage des travaux des « formalistes » qui ont pensé leurs recherches dans la relation à la culture (y compris dans sa dimension folklorique) –Jakobson, Propp, Greimas; des travaux sémio-linguistiques de Bakhtine; et des travaux des ethnologues du symbolique comme Yvonne Verdier, Daniel Fabre, Nicole Belmont, continuateurs de Lévi-Strauss, qui ont travaillé sur les sociétés européennes. C’est de là que la démarche tire son originalité dans le champ plus large des méthodes d’analyse littéraire recourant à l’anthropologie sociale ou culturelle.

It seems that all the things I’m looking at this semester ueberschneiden sich. The Formalists and Bakhtin appear in the Bakhtin and Route and Roots courses, and James Clifford was also in Routes and Routes. Somehow, whenever I learn something new, it appears everywhere.

I actually visited this course because I had a suspicion that the anthropological approach to literature applied to new English and German literatures because of the heavy influence of cultural awareness in these works and how they are studied.

In the US, there have been ethnocritical studies of Native American literature, and Jean Jamin looked at Faulkner as an anthropological writer. I think important to the idea of anthropological literature, and a way it connects to postcolonial literature, is through the process of writing back. One could look at Wide Sargasso Sea as an example.

I don’t know. I actually got nothing to add tonight. Totally unproductive- but I am encouraged to keep attending this class!



15/1030: Happy German Unity Day

While I already posted my obligatory explanation of the holiday and its significance for those who didn’t know here, it’s a good moment to write a little about one of the more significant intermedial references I am exploring for my dissertation. For those who read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, I am talking about the way the fall of the Berlin Wall is described.

November 10, 1989 [why Nov. 10? It should be “November 9, 1989”]

A Wall was coming down. It was an historic occasion. No one really knew quite who had put it up or who was tearing it down or whether this was good, bad, or something else; no one knew how tall it was, how long it was, or why people had died trying to cross it, or whether they would stop dying in future, but it was educational all the same; as good an excuse for a get-together as any. It was a Thursday night, Alsana and Clara had cooked, and everyone was watching history on TV.  (197)

This passage and the parts that follow it are intermedial because of the reference to the news reporting in 1989. One sees the events as described by the characters.

“What’s happening now?” […] “Same, man.” […] “Same. Same. Same. Dancing on the wall, smashing it with a hammer. Whatever. I wanna see what else is on, yeah?” (197).

What’s more interesting, though, is how the characters are made to respond to what they are seeing. Irie, the teenage daughter of Clara and Archie, is impressed by what she sees as the ‘historic moment’ and she sees it as a moment of freedom, parallel to her own yearning for freedom and some great change in her personal life. On the other hand, her father and Samad are more critical of Germany on the brink of unity.

“Not all of us think fondly upon a united Germany” (199).

Of course, the words hold truth on and off the page.

Then, there’s the TV reporting itself, something one can find in the records with little research:

The twenty-eight-mile-long-scar- the ugliest symbol of a divided world, East and West- has no meaning anymore. Few people, including this reporter, thought to see it happen in their lifetimes […]. (199)

Something I’m not sure about, is if this is supposed to the live-reporting of a reporter. If so, then is the reporter stepping into the role of the author? Is the reporter a real reporter? I’m a bit tired, so I leave this last question for tomorrow (or later). In the meantime, I leave with a tribute to one of Germany’s greatest moments and one happily remembered by Germans today.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality

4/1030: narrowing down the questions

A few weeks ago, I set up a revised list of research questions to submit as a part of my application for acceptance as PhD candidate. One of these questions, the one I call my thesis question (since I believe answering it brings me closest to my claim) is:

What power do intermedial references have in literature that allows authors to use them in migration literature to help enunciate the individual voice of a depicted minority character?

I followed this question up with a lot of sub-questions, for example “what is individual voice?” “how authentic is this voice?” and others to help address the follow-ups I anticipate from critics. Apparently, it’s good I challenge my own question, since the follow-up is pretty much what I expected.

I sent my question to my MA thesis sponsor, and he graciously replied with some very helpful suggestions.

First of all, I definitely need to back up my ideas about individual voice with theory. I have Bakhtin (ah, M.M. Bakhtin, how I would have loved to have met you) as my main man. I also have a few Composition and Rhetoric theorist in my armory. As far as the authenticity of this voice, I have Bhabha and Spivak to analyze again.

My mentor, then sponsor, seems to think I should avoid focusing on individual voice and instead focus on the intermedial references. For example

“How and why are intermedial references so common in migration literature?  What meaning(s) do such references contribute and/or elucidate?  How and why is intermediality a significant element of migration literature?

I don’t mind using these as my prime research questions. I even have them as a part of my list of things to do. I was afraid, however, that the question was too broad and leaves open too many answers. I thought I had to already have an idea of the answer in order to propose my project. But perhaps I should allow myself more room for hypotheses. After all, it has crossed my mind that the better answers have to do with crossing borders. The breaking down of linguistic and media borders is conducive to the breaking down of cultural borders. My issue with this claim is that I thought that it was laengst geklaert. I mean, who doesn’t see the breakdown of borders and norms in literature today? And the novel, of course the novel transgresses former expectations; that’s what makes them novel.

I think I’m onto something when I say that intermediality is a significant element because it breaks up secondary discourses and opens up for new kinds of voices. What are these new kinds? I guess I still have to clarify that.

Honestly, whenever I think I’ve figured something out, I manage to get sucked into a whole new sets of challenges and possibilities inherent to my questions.  I fear I may never get anywhere… I’ll keep reading and reading and now have any answers- just more questions.

Maybe it’s time to start doing literature review conscientiously again- find some answers before asking more questions.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality. 

3/1030 : Ice-Skating as Mode of Expression in Brick Lane and ?

Wow. The days are going by quicker than I expected they would. It’s actually kind of freaking me out- good thing I finally started writing! So, yesterday I explored why I am in comparative lit. The day before I introduced what the heck my blog is turning into. Today is the first day I actually produce some content.

I think I’ll write about figure skating.

I recently started reading Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert by Saša Stanišić and while I am still waiting for some sort of intermedial reference, I needed to note the main character’s  observations about his mother  on page 75 of the 6th ed. of the Randomhouse Paperback (2008).

“Wenn ich so alt bin wie meine Mutter, werde ich auch eine Stunde lang ununterbrochen von Sorgen erzaehlen koennen, nur werden es nicht meine eigenen sein. Mutter hatte eigentlich Eiskunstlaeuferin werden  wollen. Jetzt laeuft sie sich in unserem Gericht muede.”

I haven’t read far enough to see if Aleksandar makes more comments about his mother’s once dreams, but I am already surprised by the use of iceskating as some kind of motif. It is definitely a motif in Brick Lane by Monica Ali, and now I’m wondering if I can make a connection.

In Brick Lane, ice-skating appears several times throughout the novel. It mostly appears in connection with a television, and the images on the screen are interjected into the text. Of course, because of this in Brick Lane I can talk about ice-skating in relation with intermedial references, and this choice is rather productive, since major themes throughout the novel are evoked by these instances, for example on page 36 of the 2004 Blackswan Paperback.

The “screen held” Nazneen as she is trying to fold laundry. She see two figures (their descriptions are almost erotic, but in a conservative ‘I can’t believe they’re wearing that in public’ way) and to her, it looks like magic.

Apparently, I talk about all this much better in my MA thesis chapter:

Ice-skating is a form of expression; it is an artistic form of movement in which the female is often considered superior to the male performer in popular consciousness (we see this in ballet as well). The movement across the ice in rhythm and with supreme control of movement is akin to language use in an unpredictable world where one is constantly in danger of transgressing boundaries. The first time Nazneen sees it on the television in her flat, the experience shifts her from her previous state so that she is “no longer a collection of the hopes, random thoughts, petty anxieties and selfish wants that made her” (41). This looks like magic to Nazneen. The word “ice-skating” first appears fairly early in the novel on page 36. Nazneen sees two figures on television and the situation is described as capturing Nazneen as the “screen [holds] her” and she tries to understand what they are doing.  In her “mis-understanding” of the actions of the two ice-skaters, she creates her own understanding. It is one of the first instances in which we see the formation of her individual voice. But then, when she wants to verbalize their act, she has difficulty.

‘What is this called?’ Said Nazneen.
Chanu glanced at the screen. ‘Ice skating,’ he said, in English.
‘Ice e-skating’ said Nazneen.
‘Ice skating,’ said Chanu.
‘Ice e-skaiting.’
‘No, no. No {e}. Ice skating. Try it again.’
Nazneen hesitated( 37).

In this situation, the pronunciation of the word, rather than its role as motif, takes the forefront:

“’Go on!’

Ice es-kating,’ she said, with deliberation.
Chanu smiled. ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s a common problem for Bengalis. Two consonants together causes a difficulty. I have conquered this issue after a long time. But you are unlikely to need these words in any case.’
‘I would like to learn some English,’ said Nazneen.
Chanu puffed his cheeks and spat the air out in a fluff. ‘It will come. Don’t worry about it. Where’s the need anyway?’ He looked at this book and Nazneen watched the screen” (37).

Underneath the structural level of the word we see in this passage all the major motives that are returned to throughout the novel: television, words, language, desire, and ice skating. In fact, learning English and ice-skating are usually in close proximity in the novel. When one is mentioned, the other usually appears as well. The final question “Where’s the need anyway?” brought up in this situation introduces the last authoritative discourse Nazneen must assert herself against: that of her husband. As Nazneen slowly moves through other layers of discourse, her relationship to the words “ice skating” and the experience it portrays changes.

The next mention of “ice skating” is when Nazneen sees it in a magazine during one of her moments of inactivity (93). The sexual expression in the action is even more pronounced here in the description of the woman’s thigh: “She felt the rush of wind on her cheeks, and the muscles in her thighs flexing. The ice smelled of limes. The cold air made her flush with warmth from deep down” (93). The succeeding instance highlights even more desire in the language and a bit of stream of consciousness.  Nazneen imagines ice-skating in her dream about Karim, “she moved without weight and there was someone at her side, her hand in another, and through her half-closed lashes she saw him. The fine gold chain around his neck” (220). The connection of ice, limes, and desire is developed into its own discourse by the time Nazneen says about Karim that he “smelled of limes” (449).

Finally, by the end of the novel, the motif is carried through to satisfy the interpretation of the ice-skating rink that Nazneen is brought to by Razia, Shahana and Bibi. Nazneen’s new “way of being” becomes solidified in the image of the ice. Salman Rushdie writes in “Step Across this Line” that “[w]e become the frontiers we cross” (410). This rink serves as a metaphor for Nazneen. It symbolizes all the things Nazneen has gone through and all the ways, and people, she has learned to communicate with without losing touch of who she is and what she wanted. “She looked at the ice and slowly it revealed itself. The criss-cross patterns of a thousand surface scars, the colours that shifted and changed in the lights, the unchanging nature of what lay beneath” (492). True, Nazneen has surface scars from the struggle in the “contact zone,” but she can have desire and multiplicity “colours that shift[…] and change” and still remain the individual she was. What changes is that she learns to express this subjectivity better.

Right. So that was my grad student self working through how ice-skating can be a form of expression. I guess I put a lot of thought into it then, and maybe that’s why it stood out to me that Aleksandar’s mother wanted to become an ice-skater. I can see how it is attractive to Nazneen. I can work with the way Monica Ali uses the motif to help present an authentic individual voice for Nazneen (though how authentic it is needs to still be questioned).

I have no real understanding yet about how it works for Saša Stanišić. I believe, however, that there is a link to be made with the way Aleksandar says he will be able to tell people about worries all day, but that they won’t be his own. He will create the worries or tell those of others. Aleksandar is also a magician in this story, and his ability to create worlds (and worries) is his magic. The links between expression and magic are definitely there, but other than mere proximal-association, I haven’t gotten enough about the mother to understand why it is significant that she wanted to be a figure skater. She’s stuck in a world where she types up reports for men and “runs herself down” in the court offices. Perhaps she, like Nazneen, longs for a freedom of expression that can be found in the physically aesthetic and exhilarating act of skating? I’ve got to finish reading before I can confirm this.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to see I’ve managed three days in a row. I’m surprised how articulate I was in my MA thesis… those months are all a blur for me now.

I need to work on my verbosity though. I could write the things I do with half the text.

What I leave today’s entry with is a more clear idea of the way ice-skating is used by different authors in different contexts. Freedom of expression and creation are in both instances, but the Stanišić version is touched by a little more politics. I also may want to acknowledge that Nazneen is a feminist’s character while I can’t make any assumptions about Stanišić.  I will return to this once I finished reading …Grammofon… 

In the future, I will also want to figure out a way to discuss the connection between the television and this form of expression. I haven’t done that very clearly yet, but I have to if I’m talking about intermedial references. I also want to be able to cite more concrete literary theory. To-do lists are being built. The game is on!

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality. 

Day One, 1029 Days left

Alright, so that number is a tiny bit arbitrary, since I have no clue yet if I can expect to submit the bound dissertation on July 15, 2019. However, assuming I want to apply for my PhD at the end of the lecture-period of the Summer Semester of 2019, that would be the day.

Pat Thomson from patter has a “Starting the PhD” series that I’ve been following since I knew I wanted to earn a PhD- before I was even done with the MA thesis. Now, whenever she posts something, I’m even more interested in her advice. Today, I am going to follow up on her most recent piece (of advice): write and write regularly.

Now, the “Day One” at the top of this post isn’t really true. I’ve actually been working on the PhD in some form for more than a year. Development of the project already started in May 2015 and became more and more supported with research through Fall 2015 and then again in Summer 2016, while I worked to be admitted into a PhD program. Now, however, it’s time to get out of the development stage. I’ve got the abstract, working bibliography, and abstract. I’ve got a working outline and a time-plan. Now it’s time to start writing.

So today is Day One. It’s the day where I commit to one post a day about my PhD research or something strongly related. Today, I will spend more time preparing this series of blogging than actually fulfilling the goals of this objective, but I need to start somewhere and I’m someone who likes to set-up some guidelines of how to go about doing something for herself. Then I will write.

First of all, all my posts will need to be seen with a disclaimer and a copyright.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality. 

With that in mind, I will try to always cite my sources so that I can claim originality with a clear conscience.

Woo. With that rather legal talk out of the way, some guidelines for the content of my posts pretty much follow what patter puts out in her blog post:

writing about something that puzzles [me], writing about how a particular reading relates to [my] topic, responding to a small quotation – writing about what it made [me] think about, exploring a particular possible idea for a research design, developing an argument about an aspect of [my] research – the choice of method for example, writing about why it is a good choice and/or why it might not be, writing about a talk that [I’ve] heard, recording a research related conversation [I’ve] had with a peer, thinking/writing about what [I] might want to talk to [my] supervisor about, experimenting with different writing ‘voices’ and styles, trying out draft paragraphs, introductions, abstracts, writing descriptive pieces, where [I] work on the ways in which [I] might provide rich detail about [my] work, practising how to incorporate dialogue into an argumentative text, writing to learn to craft anecdotes and vignettes.

I think that these suggestions give me a lot of possibilities to fill the next 1000+ days. Because I am doing my PhD under individual sponsorship- no program, I will need as many routines and structures I can build for myself to get through this. From experience, 1000 days seem like a lot, but they really aren’t for a large-scale research project. Deadlines will still arrive too quickly. At the same time, I could probably get most of my writing done in six months. The issue will be to stay committed to writing about the research and the thinking so that I can practice writing and be able to write something in six months.

Savvy? Good.

The True History of the Kelly Gang

What is “true”? And how is this the most “true” history we have of the famous “bushranger” and outlaw?

Initially, the story of an Australian man who becomes his country’s “Robin Hood” seems far off the map of “post-colonial literature.” Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang is of course new, and English language, literature. However, it does not fall into the normal stereotypes of what makes literature post-colonial at all (specifically speaking, it initially seems like it has little to do with race, former colonies [that one is just ignorance], and crossing borders). However, of course this is “post-colonial” literature. There are many signs for it and justifications for the label. Because it’s so easy to take this literature (and much of the “new” literatures being produced) and point out “post-colonial” aspects, I am beginning to wonder if our world is just so marked by colonialism that conceiving anything outside of this hegemony is even possible. If so, I think I am a bit disappointed because there must be other, news ways of talking about literature.

However, I need to illuminate a few reasons this is “post-colonial.” Different ethnic minorities are clearly pointed out fairly early on in the novel. First of all, Australia was an English colony with indigenous people already living on the land, just like many of the UK’s other colonies. Furthermore, these indigenous people (who are/were People of Color) were referred to as “black” and come up several times in the novel, the earliest occasion when Ned and Jem are out and about: “Cor look at them blacks said Jem […] damn them said Jem we was raised to think the blacks the lowest of the low but they had boots not us […]” (Carey 15). The lack of boots indicates an economic status that illuminates a further distinction of social status and class within Australia that extends beyond indigenous groups. One can further consider that Ned Kelly and his family (as well as many of his “peers”) were Irish and therefore another group of colonized people. Am I saying that racism or race/ethnicity relations define a text as post-colonial? Nope. But I do suggest that it is worth discussing in the context.

A more nuanced reading will reveal many other facets that are common themes in post-colonial literature. There is the large question of voice and who is allowed to speak. Ned Kelly is a criminal, yes. But he is also an individual who has experienced suppression and injustice and he is given a voice “in a dazzling act of ventriloquism” (as the eloquent writer on the back of my book writes) that is otherwise denied him. In light of essays like “Can the Subaltern Speak,” this move is rather “post-colonial,” though care must be made to consider that Kelly doesn’t really belong to the subaltern, nor is his representation skewed by a discourse that originally misunderstands/suppresses him (though I suppose someone more educated in criminal anthropology/psychology may disagree).

Perhaps the most valid point about the “post-colonialness” of this novel is that it makes many of the same moves as other post-colonial literature in its “rewriting” of history. Not only is the question of time itself constantly pushed through the forefront, with things like the epigraph by William Faulkner: “The past is not dead. It is not even past,” but the way time is represented is challenged in more than just content. One has mixed mediums of parcel titles, letters, and references to newspaper articles and telegrams. The letters are presented as real, non-fiction, and yet they were created by Peter Carey. At the same time, this voice of Ned Kelly seems just as valid as any other voice (perhaps also because it uses the model of a real sequence of letters written by Kelly) that may have been provided by another writer. This complicates our ideas of “objective” history, “true” history, which is again very relevant to the discussion of post-colonial literature.

Gah, I feel like there’s more that needs to be said here… I’ve left some thoughts unfinished, but I have a thesis to go and write, so…

This was a good book and quick to read.  Even taken outside of the post-colonial context, it is a new way of looking at an old story and provides a sympathetic explanation for a few murders and criminal actions (though I still don’t condone it, it’s very western-esque, though labeling it as such opens a whole ‘nother kettle of fish).