Myths of interaction: Reading between the politics and ethics in the works of E. M. Forster, Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee and Mahasweta Devi

Sunanda Chaudhury Vaidya, Fordham University


Exploring the practice of re-reading colonial and postcolonial texts, and their implications within poststructural, postmodern, and feminist paradigms, I scrutinize the political use of myth, initiated by and manifest in the political, social, and cultural interactions between and among Western (“mainstream”) and postcolonial interests. To explore the ideological myths coded into the institutions of power by colonial over-governments in the regions of domination and at home, as well as by ex-colonized, neo-colonized indigenous governments, I focus on the tropes of translation that are crucial to the mutual exchanges between them. Arguing that translation draws on manipulative state apparatuses whose existent structures also generate interactive myths of intervention, hybridization, and an expectation of transformations, I isolate the paradigm of the myth of apocalypse. Forceful in encouraging re-constructive myths of possibility, of new beginnings, and the establishment of social and political communities in new structures of civilization, this myth is evoked as a genre, narrative, plot, and tone in my selected texts. The orthodox, dominational implications of this myth are destabilized and challenged even where they are seemingly endorsed. Apocalypticism, though, is not mainly a legacy inherited from the ruling colonizing groups. Postcolonial groups also share complicity with and make an active contribution to the narrativizing of apocalypse, redeploying local and regional apocalyptic elements that combine with the Western tropes to issue into hybridized forms. The reading strategies that unmoor the forbidding, closed rigidities of orthodox apocalypse are the modes of postmodernism. Employed by the writers, and by re-readers, these are the dynamic, open-ended, interventionist Barthesian strategies of artificial mythology and the punctum practices, Bakhtinian modes of defamiliarization, contestatory multi-vocalism, and deconstructive practices that emphasize, what is defined as the affirmative and recuperative “tones” within hegemonic apocalypse. Indeed, the medium of the short story deployed by three of my chosen writers is itself a challenge to the “grand recits” of Enlightenment, and invokes a plurality that is opposed to the monologic and singular narrative form that characterizes the kind of apocalypticism derived from texts like Revelation. In re-reading previously evaluated writers and their texts, I seek to re-establish them in revised ways.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Vaidya, Sunanda Chaudhury, "Myths of interaction: Reading between the politics and ethics in the works of E. M. Forster, Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee and Mahasweta Devi" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3116868.