Can the Subaltern Speak? Re-presenting the Lost Voice of the Vedic Version
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The exegesis, Can the Subaltern Speak? Re-presenting the Lost Voice of the Vedic Version, posits that Gramsci's term subaltern applies in three ways: to myself, my work and its themes. I discuss how my 'otherness' underlies my motivations for writing Ocean of Milk to re-present the Vedic version of precolonial India, whose original meaning and thus value, has all but been lost through British subjugation. There follows a discussion of the thesis in the light of three areas of literary criticism: 1. Magical realism: in which I look at my thesis as cross-cultural and postcolonial, with an intention to subvert prevailing paradigms. 2. Feminism or magical feminism: which explores feminism in magical realist works and further extends the concept of feminism to 'subalternism'. 3. The unreliable narrator: in which I discuss whether an unreliable narrator might undermine the magic in a magical realist work. I address how Ocean of Milk might be received in the world today in light of the reception of other magical realist works. The exegesis ends with Spivak's call to arms, 'the empire writes back' and a note of encouragement from the Vedic version regarding the importance of somehow communicating the message, however unqualified the subaltern speaker may be. In the thesis, Ocean of Milk, I sought to create a protagonist who had no preconceived ideas; she would be able to see things afresh, like the people of Macondo, free from conditioning by prevailing paradigms. I wanted her to be exposed to representatives of traditional and alternative, metaphysical and rationalist viewpoints, to be an impartial observer and thus commentator of both. As it turns out, she spends most of her time in search of herself and being pressured to conform by the different worldviews she encounters. Not knowing herself, she becomes subjected to all the establishment institutions: medical, legal and educational, and lurches from one disaster to another. When she finally discovers herself and her powers, she attempts to heal ancient conflicts between opposing parties and bring the opponents to a deeper awareness of unity in diversity. However, this requires the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice only she can make. The thesis also addresses current challenges of parenting and grand-parenting.