The Introduction situates the book in the context of recent work by Spivak and others on the ‘literariness’ of postcolonial texts, and on the relationship between the formal features of the text and its possible political significance. In this book, language and literary form are seen as illuminating a ‘content’ that is sometimes properly political but often more diffusely ideological or cultural. Its use of structuralism and poststructuralism alongside postcolonial theory is discussed: while canonical postcolonial theorists such as Spivak, Said and Bhabha are profoundly influenced by Foucault, Lacan and Derrida, postcolonial theory has under-exploited the ‘linguistic turn’ of (post)structuralism. But the colonized subject's alienated relation to the colonial language is a prominent issue in postcolonial fiction, and Britton argues that it can be better addressed by the work of Benveniste and Bakhtin than by anything in postcolonial theory. Conversely, however, postcolonial fiction also reveals the limitations of (post)structuralist theory – Barthes’ S/Z for instance – in its dismissive attitude to a realism that postcolonial writers have reworked and renewed.
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