ABSTRACT

Beginning effectively in the eighteenth century, the genre of the novel arose in the West and quickly established a still unchallenged supremacy over all the other literary genres. Beginning at about the same time, the military power of the West won for it political and economic supremacy over large territories in other parts of the world which continued until the middle of the twentieth century. It has been argued from widely different points of view that these synchronic developments were not entirely coincidental. To cite just two examples, the Bangladeshi critic Firdous Azim, in her ambitiously titled book The Colonial Rise of the Novel (1993), discussed works by Aphra Behn, Defoe, but mainly Charlotte Brontë to highlight the issues not only of colonialism but equally of race, gender, and the spread of the English language. While speaking of a ‘colonial encounter,’ she nevertheless scrupulously specifi ed that her study “does not position itself along with the rhetoric of a ‘decolonizing’ mission, which dismisses the English text as that of the colonial master” (Azim 1993: 6; my emphasis). On the other hand, Edward Said in his Culture and Imperialism (1993) put forward the argument that Western novelists right from Jane Austen to Salman Rushdie needed to be read ‘contrapuntally’ to bring out the almost symbiotic connection between the Western novel and Western Empires, in particular the British. He proceeded to deliver magisterially an inadequately instantiated but characteristically sweeping assertion: “Without Empire, I would go so far as saying, there is no European novel as we know it” (Said 1993: 69).