Why isn't American literature "post colonial"?

Eduardo Ruiz and George P. Landow

Eduardo Ruiz, a ninth grader who attends PS 234 in TriBeCa, New York City, recently e-mailed me a crucial question that must occur to many, and with his permission I include his question:

Dear Professor Landow,

We are studying "post colonial" literature in my ninth grade English class with Mrs. Maclachlan and we had to do some homework on it for class and so I looked at your website. But I have a question. Why isn't American literature "post colonial"? The definition on your website says "colonial" also means what used to be the 13 colonies of the US. We were a colony too so we should be on that map of British colonies, shouldn't we?

Eduardo Ruiz

As I wrote to Eduardo, that is an excellent question to which I have two answers.

1. Yes, American literature can fit into the colonial and postcolonial categories, and in fact many people who teach literature written when we were a colony and the literature of the nineteenth century, apply postcolonial theories, compare the early USA to recently independent countries in Africa, Asia, and on so.

Then why don't I include American literature? (a) American literature is widely studied through America and, increasingly, the world, and because there are many websites about it, there's no need to include it here. (b) The postcolonial literatures about which the Postcolonial Web concerns itself are almost entirely about countries that became independent in the modern world, which has a truly global economy, so the kinds of things we faced as a newly independent country differ from many of those countries face today

2. History of the the Postcolonial Web: It began as a way to help me teach writing in English by people from Africa and, a few years later, from Asia as well. This was before the WWW. Since then the shape of the Postcolonial Web has been the result of (a) courses I teach, (b) places I go (e.g., Zimbabwe, Singapore), (c) what people send in. One of my readers thinks that the countries freed from Soviet Russia recently should be included, and since he was willing to write an essay on this, I was willing to include it.

You might like to look at the section under PoCo Theory. There are quite a few discussions of "what is postcolonial?" The most important thing to remember is, the term postcolonial is an idea, a tool, something to help someone think about something else. It's not really a thing like a hammer or a computer.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Bibliography

Last modified: 24 January 2001