It was one evening, while I was reading the novel Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatjee that my ideas for a doctoral project took shape. Before reading the novel, I had heard from my Professor who taught me Post colonial studies (a course for which the novel had been prescribed) that Ondaatjee’s only novel about Sri Lanka has often been subjected to heavy criticism because of the fact that it fails to portray the island’s civil war in a credible manner.
Literary scholars have subjected Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatjee’s only novel about Sri Lanka, to heavy criticism on grounds that it fails to portray the island’s civil war in a “credible manner”. Indeed, working primarily as a historical backdrop, the war does not directly concern Anil Tissera, the expatriated Sri Lankan protagonist. Anil seems to function not as an insider but rather, as an investigating spectator concerned about the nature of extrajudicial killings in the island. The critique leads to several questions: To what extent did postcolonial literary studies comfortably accommodate the genre of ‘literature of conflict’ to denote the faithful portrayal of violence and war? What, if any, are the possibilities for what we term ‘literature of conflict’ to point out ways in which peace can be imagined in nations such as Sri Lanka where the ethnic war has become the defining postcolonial national reality? How do these imaginings or reflections of peace, in turn shape ideas of nationalism? Transition sentence here.
The doctoral research that I hope to pursue at -------------- intends to analyse these questions more systemically (more thoroughly?). My research archive would cover Anglophone literary production from Sri Lanka between 1983 and 2009 - the time period of the ethnic war between.... Through this archive, I aim to examine the ways in which literature of this period conceptualizes the question of peace and how it shapes ideas of Sri Lankan nationalism. Additionally, drawing primarily on close readings of texts about Sri Lanka, I would like to question the sustainability of the dichotomous conception of the ‘expatriate writer’ versus the ‘resident writer’ so ubiquitous in postcolonial textual analysis. I hope to explore ways in which the preoccupation of postcolonial literary studies with issues of conflict, especially in South Asian literatures, can be discarded to make way for fresh avenues for incorporating conceptual issues and disciplinary concerns from subjects such as Peace Studies.
Through my research project “Reflections of Peace and Nationalism in Sri Lankan Literature”, I hope to contribute to the growing archive of literary criticism pertaining to postcolonial Sri Lankan literature. Sri Lankan literature as a branch of the South Asian postcolonial canon has been accorded less attention than its counterpart Indian postcolonial literature....