I agree with recent posts which disagree with Jameson’s understanding of so-called “Third World” literature, and my primary complaint comes particularly from his claim that the allegorical nature of such literature is inherent to the Third World. Yet, to play Devil’s advocate for a moment, Jameson does have interesting things to say about the status of the Western canon in academia today. He says, for instance, that a non-canonical reading of Third World literature “challenges our imprisonment in the present of postmodernism and calls for a reinvention of the radical difference of our own cultural past and its now seemingly old-fashioned situations and novelties” (66). I take this quote to suggest Jameson’s assertion that reading Third World literature forces us from our Western, “sheltered” lives, and opens us to new possibilities of meaning and understanding. Additionally, despite his lack of a “comparable expression” which delineates Third World literature from that of the canonical West, Jameson also challenges the definitiveness of the term “Third World,” pointing explicitly to the ways in which “Third World” coalesces disparate literary traditions, as well as intermingling First and Second World literatures which themselves are incommensurate with each other (even as he says such objections are “irrelevant”). Indeed, he points out that “none of these cultures can be conceived as anthropologically independent or autonomous, rather, they are all in various distinct ways locked in a life-and-death struggle with first-world cultural imperialism” (68). Insofar as this fact relies on an adherence to colonial and imperial struggle, it is not, I think, incorrect to suggest that many Third World literatures do indeed relay that struggle.
Still, his claims are short of convincing. First, as Rocky and Bianca have pointed out, it is problematic to suggest a dependence on the colonial past which denies a pre-colonial history. On the one hand, this discounts the kind of literary syncretism we have found in the Nigerian works we have read so far. On the other, it denies the history of the First and Second worlds as being capable of producing a similar literary trend. For instance, the slave narrative’s capacity for speaking towards cultural imperialism, and a novel such as The Great Gatsby, say, of being read specifically allegorical. In fact, Jameson’s insistence on a particularly allegorical Third World literature is surely rife with contradictions (of which The Water of Cure is certainly a member, even as it is definitively NOT postcolonial).