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Figuring Naipaul : The subject of the postcolonial world

Rao, D. V (1988) Figuring Naipaul : The subject of the postcolonial world. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86445) (KAR id:86445)


Figuring Naipaul deals with two issues: the writings of the Trinidad-born V.S. Naipaul and the problematic of postcolonial self-representation. In the literary world and among the reading public Naipaul has gained prominence and notoriety in the last two decades. But the critical response to his work has been essentially from what I call the 'mainstream' perspective. In my first Chapter (Part I) I attempt to map various critical trajectories that emerged from the mainstream perspective in the context of Naipaul criticism. In order to contest the tacit assumptions of the mainstream discourse and to figure the representation of the postcolonial world in Naipaul's work I elaborate the patterns in which they both repeat and suggest a certain kind of collusion between the underlying assumptions of the two discourses (Naipaul's own and that of the mainstream criticism). The body of the thesis (Part II), consisting of eight chapters, is largely devoted to a detailed discussion of various ways in which what I call the Naipaul text constructs the postcolonial situation. This discussion elaborates certain recurring ruses and tropes I locate in the Naipaul text. My argument is that the ruses and tropes the text deploys in figuring the subject of the postcolonial world are deeply problematical in that they implicate the text in the hegemonic grand narrative of imperialism. The operation of these ruses and the pattern they constitute in the text are discussed in each Chapter of Part II. The ruses that the text depends on are mainly two: narrative deferral and the ruse of the gaze. The narrative movement of the Naipaul text, as I will show, drawing on the ruses of deferral and the gaze, has no less an aim than that of the project of self-consolidation. That is, these ruses along with tropes of 'centre', 'origin' and 'wholeness' proclaim in Naipaul's writing a certain desire for self-consolidation and self-unification. Between the desire to 'house the subject' and the celebration of a "home" Naipaul's project suspends the subject of the postcolonial world; these aspects are analysed in Chapters Two and Eight of my thesis respectively. But between these two moments, aspects of the text I attempt to unravel, the Naipaul text scapegoats the postcolonial condition. This scapegoating, I will argue, is a necessary condition for the realisation, for Naipaul, of the project of self-consolidation. This operation of the text is figured in the postcolonial dispatches Naipaul constructs. These dispatches, as I read them from Chapters Three to Seven, shape the postcolonial world in the Naipaul text. Each Chapter focuses upon specific works or groups of works by Naipaul. My analysis also engages with various sources the text relies on to prepare its dispatches. Chapter Nine is basically a critique of Naipaul's conception of 'history'; this critique undertakes to analyse Naipaul's utterances about history in general and his historical narrative, The Loss of El Dorado, in specific. My attempt is to show how various narratives of the Naipaul text represent the subject of the postcolonial world. In the process of unravelling the text I attempt to show how one can dislocate a pattern apparent in a text and celebrated by established opinion. I argue that such dislocations are important for conceiving interventionary critical strategies in the postcolonial situation

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86445
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Writings of V.S. Naipaul
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 11:01 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 08:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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