Reflections of Peace and Nationalism in Sri Lankan Literature

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It was one evening, while I was reading the novel Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatjee that my ideas for a doctoral project took shape. Before reading the novel, I had heard from my Professor who taught me Post colonial studies (a course for which the novel had been prescribed) that Ondaatjee’s only novel about Sri Lanka has often been subjected to heavy criticism because of the fact that it fails to portray the island’s civil war in a credible manner.
Literary scholars have subjected Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatjee’s only novel about Sri Lanka, to heavy criticism on grounds that it fails to portray the island’s civil war in a “credible manner”. Indeed, working primarily as a historical backdrop, the war does not directly concern Anil
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Additionally, drawing primarily on close readings of texts about Sri Lanka, I would like to question the sustainability of the dichotomous conception of the ‘expatriate writer’ versus the ‘resident writer’ so ubiquitous in postcolonial textual analysis. I hope to explore ways in which the preoccupation of postcolonial literary studies with issues of conflict, especially in South Asian literatures, can be discarded to make way for fresh avenues for incorporating conceptual issues and disciplinary concerns from subjects such as Peace Studies.

Through my research project “Reflections of Peace and Nationalism in Sri Lankan Literature”, I hope to contribute to the growing archive of literary criticism pertaining to postcolonial Sri Lankan literature. Sri Lankan literature as a branch of the South Asian postcolonial canon has been accorded less attention than its counterpart Indian postcolonial literature. In fact, the only comprehensive book length study of postcolonial Sri Lankan literature available is Writing Sri Lanka: Literature, Resistance and the politics of Place (2007) which is based on a critique that draws into alignment ‘resident’ and ‘expatriate’ writers, creating a context for comparative analysis that is attendant to the different sites of production and reception of literary texts. My research nurtures the development of the young field of south Asian Sri Lankan…

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