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Extra resources for Autobiography and independence : selfhood and creativity in North African postcolonial writing in French
Alec Hargreaves and Mark McKinney also discuss the problem of postcolonial theory being simply an addition to the other ‘posts’ that indicate a crisis in Western theory and as such failing to reflect the real concerns of the cultures it seeks to read and re-read. 94 Charles Forsdick and David Murphy, in Francophone Postcolonial Studies, emphasise the positive contribution of Postcolonial Studies in a further useful discussion of its development. They remark both on the ways in which Postcolonial Studies have led English literature departments to revise the literary canon (a point also made by James Olney, as cited earlier) and on the willingness within the field to ‘refine the object of its research in the light of criticisms of earlier definitions’, taking as an example the use or non-use of the hyphenated form.
Indeed some feminist critics establish a link between male autobiographical practice, the cult of individuality and colonialism. This returns us crucially to Weintraub’s distinction between individualism as a conception of the ideal relation between the individual and society, and the personality conception of individuality. Women’s autobiographical practices, like the postcolonial practices under analysis here, seem to explore the social conception of individualism. The ‘I’ does not necessarily ‘represent’ a ‘we’, but is often a vehicle to explore the relation between the ‘I’ and that ‘we’.
In so doing, these writers contributed to the analysis of the effects of colonisation and of resistance to that oppression on the identity of the individual and of the nation. However, as previously discussed in the preface, the issue of a writer, part of an intellectual elite, ‘representing’ the wider community is problematic. The almost invariable references to the ‘I’ that masks a ‘we’, the je pluriel (a plural, multiple, collective self), have become mere commonplaces, at best narrative instances that the critic expects to find and therefore does not question.