Speaking Politically : Adorno and Postcolonial Fiction book cover
1st Edition

Speaking Politically
Adorno and Postcolonial Fiction

ISBN 9780367437930
Published April 22, 2021 by Routledge
150 Pages

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Book Description

In this monograph Theodor Adorno’s philosophy engages with postcolonial texts and authors that emerge out of situations of political extremity – apartheid South Africa, war-torn Sri Lanka, Pinochet’s dictatorship, and the Greek military junta. This book is ground-breaking in two key ways: first, it argues that Adorno can speak to texts with which he is not historically associated; and second, it uses Adorno’s theory to unlock the liberatory potential of authors or novels traditionally understood to be "apolitical". While addressing Adorno’s uneven critical response and dissemination in the Anglophone literary world, the book also showcases Adorno’s unique reading of the literary text both in terms of its innate historical content and formal aesthetic attributes. Such a reading refuses to read postcolonial texts exclusively as political documents, a problematic (but changing) tendency within postcolonial studies. In short, the book operates as a two-way conversation asking: "What can Adorno’s concepts give to certain literary texts?" but also reciprocally, "What can those texts give to our conventional understanding of Adorno and his applicability?" This book is an act of rethinking the literary in Adornian terms, and rethinking Adorno through the literary.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Speaking Politically, Not Politics"

Chapter 1: Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K and an Alternative Political Commitment

Chapter 2: Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold and its Quiet Politics

Chapter 3: Karapanou’s Kassandra and the Wolf and Truth Content

Chapter 4: Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost and the Non-Identical

Conclusion: "Writing about flowers at a time like this"

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Dr Eleni Philippou is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) at the University of Oxford. Beyond her key research interests in postcolonial and world literature, she is also interested in critical theory, comparative literature, and translation studies. She is an award-winning poet, with a number of poems published in both British and international anthologies and journals.


"In Speaking Politically, Eleni Philippou develops a style of reading in dialogue with Adorno that reveals subtle but powerful political energies at work in the novels by Coetzee, Márquez, Karapanou and Ondaatje that are her focus. What's more, her argument reaches beyond those authors,  for it offers new ways of bringing texts together in a world literary context, as well as a masterclass in astute interpretation. This is a deeply felt and crisply written book that anyone interested in world and postcolonial literary studies should read."

Matthew Reynolds, Professor of English and Comparative Criticism, University of Oxford.