Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Deus-ex-machina: A modern skeptic's relentless scrutiny of the production of ethics in post-colonial literature and postcolonialism
by Nguyen, Duc, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2009, 454; 3368741
Abstract (Summary)

Postcolonialism uses stories from the colonial world to confront global audiences with ethical problems. This dissertation examines the rhetorical strategies employed by writers to organize new communities defined in terms of Postcolonialist ethics. It analyzes the limits and failures of the new ethos by redirecting the same critical methods that Postcolonialism has used to undermine contemporary and Colonial representations. The theme of ethics allows authors and critics to tactically deploy otherwise contradictory arguments, and seemingly resolve them, at moments of convenience. In the cases being examined, it promises consequences and achievements that, given the logic of the story, are not likely to be reached except by deus-ex-machina. An author can use the rhetoric to make ethical demands in service to a good that has already been decided. For example, Salman Rushdie would have us feel we are already connected through stories of lived-experience and take responsibility for the proposed connections, even when the reality of the connections is untested, and the particular risks and rewards are unclear. Likewise, Amitav Ghosh would have us appreciate how the writing of history is a function of the archivist and historian, then act as though we have to redeem in the present something extra-representational that history failed to record. Then the critic asks for commitment to ideas "proven" only by his own interpretation of the chosen stories. To do so, he exempts those ideas from the initial problematic of historiography and representation allayed against others. It is by way of this exceptionalist posture that Homi Bhabha focuses ethics on the revealed characteristics of that which had been defined as neither one thing nor the other without having to offer up an emerging figure for testing or "liberatory signs" for discursive analysis. The dissertation tests the ethics proposed in post-colonial stories and by Postcolonialist criticism; scrutinizes the discourse and its producers; and insists upon the equal right to refuse the new ethical order.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Alcorn, Marshall
Commitee: Chu, Patricia, Hsy, Jonathan, Plotz, Judith, Ver Eecke, Wilfried
School: The George Washington University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature
Keywords: Ethics, Historiography, Modernity, Postcolonialism, Skeptic
Publication Number: 3368741
ISBN: 978-1-109-29612-9
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