Post-Colonial African Literature as Counter-Discourse: J.M. Coetzee's Foe and the Reworking of the Canon
Post-colonial African novels have become veritable weapons used to dismantle the hegemonic boundaries and determinants that create unequal relations ofpower, based on binary oppositions such as Us and Them, First World and Third World, White and Black, Colonizer and Colonized, etc. Actually, the African novel occupies a central position in the criticism ofcolonial portrayals of the African continent and people. It has been crossing boundaries and assaulting walls imposed by History upon the
... zon ofthe continent whose aspirations it has been striving to articulate. It is on the basis of the foregoing background that I examine how post-colonial African novelists have used their novels to facilitate the transgression ofboundaries and subversion ofhegemonic rigidities previously mapped out in precursor literary canonical texts about Africa and Africans. Since Defoe is representative enough in the canon of colonialist discourse, the paperfocuses on one ofhis texts (Robinson Crusoe), and it also examines a work ofa post-colonial African novelist (Coetzee) as a riposte to Defoe s. The critique ofcanonical works has been a strong current in postcolonial writings. Coetzee sfiction is one of such attempts to engage in dialectical intertextualily with existing canonical works that present negative stereotypes of black peoples. It can be read as a post-colonial and feminist rewriting ofDefoe stext with the deliberate aim Ufahamu 32:3 2006 of rejecting its canonical formulation of colonial encounter and sexism. The central thesis of Coetzee s discourse in his fiction, as discussed in this paper, is to posit that African history did not begin with the continent s contact and subsequent destruction by the European colonialists. Rather than being the beginning, this period signalled the end of the beauty, communality and reciprocity characteristic ofthe way ofthe African past. The paper also suggests thattextua/ity should cease to be a 'battle ground'for orchestrating and illuminating the binary opposition between the colonizer and the colonized. Rather, canonical and non-canonical texts should be a means ofpromoting racial and gender harmony, equality. concord and global peace. in Literary History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 206-226.