Third World Short Story as National Allegory

analytical Essay
3197 words
3197 words

Third World Short Story as National Allegory

Fredric Jameson's 1986 essay "Third-World Literature in an Era of Multinational Capitalism," declares that unlike the literatures of the First World, Third World Literatures are necessarily national allegories. "Third World texts," Jameson argues, "even those which are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamic, necessarily project a political dimension in the form of national allegory; the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third world culture and society. Jameson also speculates that the disproportionate ratio of the political to the personal makes such texts alien to western readers. Click here to return to the Author's homepage

As a Marxist critic, Jameson is actually investing a positive value in the literatures of the Third World and chastizing the First World readers and writers on account of their literary narcissism, yet his theoretical project seems to be an inadequate representation of the literary life of the so-called Third World. First of all, Jameson's attempt reminds one of Thomas Babington Macauley, the English colonial administrator who theorized on the Orient in his 1854 essay "Minute on Education". Macauley wrote thus: "I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia (597).

Though Jameson is saying quite the opposite here, the nature of the two theorizations are similar on account of their hasty generalization. In Jameson's sketching of what he calls a "theory of the c...

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...leasures, certain side glances, certain deceptive giggles, like a sense of the national allegory, because an awareness of the nationality of the text is the most rudimentary reading tool many of us could take along when we encounter a literary production of the other.

Works Cited

Ahmad, Aijaz. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. London and New York: Verso, 1992.

Basheer, Vaikom Muhammad. Aanavaariyum Ponkurisum. 1953. Kottayam, India: DC Books, 1985.

Jameson, Fredric. "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism" Social Text 15 (1986): 65-88.

Macauley, Thomas Babington. "Minute on Education" in Sources of Indian Tradition. Ed. William Theodore de Barry. New York: Columbia U P, 1958. 596-601.

Sembene, Osmane. "The False Prophet." African Short Stories. Ed. Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes. London: Heinemann, 1985. 2-7.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how freddy jameson's essay, "third-world literature in an era of multinational capitalism," declares that unlike the literatures of the first world, third-world texts are necessarily national allegories.
  • Analyzes how jameson's theoretical project is an inadequate representation of the literary life in the so-called third world.
  • Analyzes how jameson's "theory of the cognitive aesthetics of third-world literature" is similar on account of their hasty generalization.
  • Argues that jameson's theory overestimates the prevalence of such fictions in the third world and underestimates the literary range of writers in non-western world.
  • Explains that in the malayalam language in southern india, all weeklies and even some newspapers serialize novels, several at a time. both popular and literary journals print short stories.
  • Analyzes how aijaz ahmad's critique of jameson exposes the weaknesses and disparity of characterization of the third-world on the basis of colonialism and imperialism.
  • Analyzes how ahmad countered jameson's excuse that he was using the term "third-world" in a descriptive sense.
  • Argues that jameson's theorization is based on the assumption that capitalist cultural production is determined by a radical split between the private and public realms that freud and marx have come to symbolize
  • Analyzes jameson's sweeping generalization that could cripple any specimen of third-world literature that strives to deal with the psychological and spiritual reality of the individual.
  • Analyzes how jameson's essay shows how the first-world literature is condemned to the "luxury of a placeless freedom in which any consciousness of his own concrete situation flees
  • Opines that the existence of this collectivity in indian literature is different from the jamesonian version. regional language literatures predate the idea of the indian nation itself, and therefore national allegories.
  • Analyzes jameson's brilliant and lengthy explication of the chinese novelist, lu xun, and the senegalese writer and film-maker, ousmane sembene.
  • Argues that jameson's symptomatic reading could disprove the claim by forcing other arbitrary meanings.
  • Analyzes how mahmoud fall, a lazy bum who pretends to be an imam, goes to senegal where he exploits the gullible muslims.
  • Questions whether it is necessary to understand the story as an allegory about the corruption of religious nationalism of islamic countries and the final day when the charlatans ruling the country would be exposed by a democratic social order
  • Argues that raymond carver's "cathedral" is a short story about the blindness of the twentieth century america.
  • Explains that they had read raymond carver's "cathedral" while living in rural india and understood the story as an allegory of america.
  • Analyzes how jameson's elaborate and elegant reading of lu xun and sembene seems to touch only this first layer accessible to one looking from outside: the chineseness, the africanness.
  • Argues that national allegory is a reader-response problem, not limited to the western reader, but to all the lost-in-translation readers. the close reading scratches off the allegorical and political and reveals the literary.
  • Analyzes basheer's self-taught writing, which was popular after independence. his thirty odd fictions include love letter (1943), voices (1947), gambler’s daughter (1951),
  • Opines that jameson's books are under fifty pages long, with the economy of the short story, yet the scope of an epic narrative.
  • Analyzes how basheer introduces his comic heroes in the mock vocabulary of the communist party which was becoming a major presence in kerala villages at the time.
  • Analyzes how jameson might mistake some narratives for allegories that signify the pre-capitalist, semi-feudal economy of rural india.
  • Opines that for indian regional-language writers, the idea of the nation is not a life-and-death problem which defines their reality.
  • Analyzes how jameson drew his theoretical inspiration from overtly political writers like garcia- marquez and rushdie who are actually part of the papier-mache third world in some ways. basheer, o.v. vijayan and paul zachariah are two major short story writers who ought to have written national allegories
  • Analyzes how zachariah's the saga of dharmapuri is not an allegory, but a scatalogical satire. he brings in the syrian christian texture to the language and style of his stories about hapless individuals like mr.
  • Analyzes how mr. chacko's voice is that of self-mockery, not the clarity or chaos of a nation.
  • Analyzes how jameson's theory attributes a false sense of power to the literatures of the third-world, and reduces all the writings
  • Analyzes how the theory of national allegory only serves to reveal the failure of theoretical approaches to the questions of the other.
  • Cites ahmad, aijaz, basheer, vaikom muhammad, jameson, fredric, macauley, thomas babington, and william theodore de barry.
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