Beyond the post-modern : The re-configuration of myth in three contemporary novels
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In this dissertation I consider three novels: The Satanic Verses, The English Patient, and The Ancestor Game. These are interpreted as postcolonial texts whose issues are grounded in the social concerns of a modem world. Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje and Alex Miller, in their attempts to address these issues, perceive a need to locate themselves on the continuum between modernism and post-modernism and to allow for provisional truth claims. This is exemplified in their writing through the treatment of myth. It is myth that typically underwrites the community, and each author suggests that myth should reflect the dynamic nature of community. Each acknowledges that in the same way post-modernism exhibits new tropes and techniques that distinguish it from modernism, so too should the customary and conventionalist models of community reflect their distinct composition through different forms of myth. All three authors I examine challenge what I have labelled monolithic myth. This they interrogate as a destructive form of myth that appeals to those individual's confronted with the prospect of unwelcome change in their community. It is defined by its exclusiveness, intolerance, and its need to privilege the community over the individual by offering prebricated senses of identity and place. Monolithic myth flourishes, however, in conventionalist communities that are too complicated for such simple purities. Each author looked at in this dissertation recognises that a complex post-modem society, which is defined by heterogeneity, requires a more provisional myth from to shore up the community and speak to hybridised notions of identity and place. In their eyes, it is the individual who must ultimately be left to create him or herself.