Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Randy Malamud

Second Advisor

Dr. Marilynn Richtarik

Third Advisor

Dr. Renee Schatteman

Abstract

In Orientalism, Edward Said identified how the Westerner “spoke for” and represented the silent Orient. Today with the burgeoning call-center business with India, it seems that the West now wants the Orient to speak for it. But is the voice that Western business requires in India a truly Indian voice? Or is it a manipulation which is a new form of the silencing of the Indian voice? This dissertation identifies how several Postcolonial Indian writers challenge the silence of Orientalism and the power issues of the West through various “speaking voices” of narratives representative of Indian life. Using Julie Kristeva’s abjection theory as a lens, this dissertation reveals Arundhati Roy as “speaking abjection” in The God of Small Things. Even Roy’s novelistic setting suffers abjection through neocolonialism. Salman Rushdie’s narrative method of magic realism allows “speaking trauma” as his character Saleem in Midnight’s Children suffers the traumas of Partition and Emergency as an allegorical representation of India. Using magic realism Saleem is able to speak the unspeakable. Other Indian voices, Bapsi Sidhwa, Khushwant Singh, and Rohinton Mistry “speak history” as their novels carry the weight of conveying an often-absent official history of Partition and the Emergency, history verified by Partition surviror interviews. In Such a Long Journey, Mistry uses an anthrozoological theme in portraying issues of power over innocence. Recognizing the choices and negotiations of immigrant life through the coining of the word (dis)assimilation, Jhumpa Lahiri’s writings are analyzed in terms of a “speaking voice” of (dis)assimilation for Indian immigrants in the United States, while Zadie Smith’s White Teeth “speaks (dis)assimilation” as a voice of multiple ethnicites negotiating immigrant life in the United Kingdom. Together these various “speaking voices” show the power of Indian writers in challenging the silence of Orientalism through narrative.

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