Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2018
Postcolonial Poetics is about how we read postcolonial and world literatures today, and about how the structures of that writing shape our reading. The book’s eight chapters explore the ways in which postcolonial writing in English from various 21st-century contexts, including southern and West Africa, and Black and Asian Britain, interacts with our imaginative understanding of the world. Throughout, the focus is on reading practices, where reading is taken as an inventive, border-traversing activity, one that postcolonial writing with its interests in margins, intersections, subversions, and crossings specifically encourages.
This finger-on-the-pulse book re-aligns postcolonial poetics and politics, reading and form and returns us to postcolonial concerns via new pathways. A series of finely-calibrated readings range across regions and genres. Written with Boehmer’s characteristic elegance and lucidity, this highly-teachable volume will be around for some time to come.
Elleke Boehmer brings a much-needed emphasis on readerly engagement to the fields of postcolonial studies and world literature. In these lucid essays, Boehmer argues eloquently for a pragmatic poetics: one that is attuned to the affordance of form as well as the dynamic and charged relations between readers and literary works.
For those of us who’ve been trying for decades to drag the aesthetic into postcolonial studies, Elleke’s Boehmer’s lively, lucid, and wide-ranging book finally pushes it across the line. Postcolonial Poetics makes the spirited yet judicious argument that attention to form and literary structure need not shortchange political or material content. With its commanding knowledge of the field, this book reveals the aesthetic means by which literature illuminates the historical violence and material inequalities of the postcolonial world. Elucidating the relation between literature’s mimetic what and its formal how, Boehmer’s important intervention opens new futures for postcolonial studies.
Throughout Postcolonial poetics, Boehmer’s careful examination of “reading” practices allows for not only a deeper understanding of the formal, aesthetic dimension of postcolonial writing, but our role as readers in decoding and experiencing a text. It constitutes an invigorating relocation of attention in postcolonial studies.
Boehmer’s book is … a vindication of postcolonial studies and of the potential of postcolonial literature to change the world. She agrees with Okri’s suggestion that the writer’s task is to remake the world, and sees the potential of the reader to activate the work’s resistant power.