In the introduction of The Nation Writ Small, Susan Andrade discusses the differences between female and male writers in regards to Jameson’s understanding that, “the story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society.” Andrade believes that female writers show the national through the domestic. It is through the domestic that family is represented as national. Andrade writes, “Family [is] experienced by its members as natural, timeless, and universal. The same is true of the nation. Nation and family are units of social collectivity and fictions of symbolic totality, each provoking from its members sentiments of affiliation and nostalgic yearning.” When the family struggles, the nation struggles. However, like Steve, I don’t believe that male writers are more obviously national while female writers are harder to pin down. I found several similarities between Graceland’s Elvis and The Secret Lives of the Four Wives’ Bolanle. Both characters experience suffering and trauma brought on by their familial experiences. They are both educated in a world that is changing but not quite modern. The pulling of the traditional and modern pulls them into deeper conflicts. In both, family does not “dissolve into a symbol; instead, it reasserts itself in literal terms and interferes with the normative expectation that it give rise to a ‘higher truth’ about national life.” There is an intersection between what is literal and figural. The national that is represented through their lives is not more or less difficult to find in each novel.

I also have trouble with the fact that there is so much effort to find the national within a novel, finding the hybridity of the nation between the modern and traditional rather than focusing on the hybridity of its individuals as struggling between these two extremes. Not only is the nation being pulled from both ends as we’ve seen in our readings, but this pulling can be seen within the nation’s inhabitants as represented by literature’s characters. Their identities are jeopardized, as they don’t fit into any category within the nation’s people. It is this struggle that makes them feel like they are not at home in the world; in essence they have no place that they belong. In many of the stories we read, we are left in a moment where the character could/might find a place to formulate a new identity, but we never know it it truly happens.


About karadim

I am a first year graduate student at American University's MA Literature program.

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