Reading List: Postcolonial Rewritings of the Imperial Canon

After my reviews of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (here) and On Beauty by Zadie Smith (here), I decided to dedicate a full post to postcolonial rewritings and reworkings of the Western literary canon.

These are some works that I could think of off the top of my head, but if there are any more out there that I should know about, please let me know in the comments!


Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys (review here)   |   Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Brontë

It was a beautiful place – wild, untouched, above all untouched, with an alien, undisturbing, secret loveliness. And it kept its secret. I’d find myself thinking, ‘What I see is nothing – I want what it hides – that is not nothing.’

Une Tempête (1969) by Aimé Césaire (read here)   |   The Tempest (1611) by William Shakespeare

CALIBAN Call me X. That would be best. Like a man without a name, or to be more precise, a man whose name has been stolen. You talk about history? Well, that’s history, and everyone knows it! Every time you call me it reminds me of a basic fact, the fact that you’ve stolen everything from me, even my identity!

A Bend in the River (1979) by V.S. Naipaul   |   Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad

The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.

Foe (1986) by J.M. Coetzee   |   Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe

It seemed to me that all things were possible on the island, all tyrannies and cruelties, though in small; and if, in despite of what was possible, we lived at peace with another, surely this was proof that certain laws unknown to us held sway, or else that we had been following the promptings of our hearts all this time, and our hearts had not betrayed us.

On Beauty (2005) by Zadie Smith (review here)   |   Howards End (1910) by E.M. Forster

When you are no longer in the sexual universe – when you are supposedly too old, or too big, or simply no longer thought of in that way – apparently a whole new range of male reactions to you come into play. One of them is humour. They find you funny. But then, thought Kiki, they were brought up that way, these white American boys: I’m the Aunt Jemina on the cookie boxes of their childhoods, the pair of thick ankles Tom and Jerry played around. Of course they find me funny.

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