The first reading to be discussed in this paper is “Heroic Ethnocentrism: The Idea of Universality in Literature” by Charles Larson. It is about the idea of universality in literature. In this passage, the author talks about the differences in interpretations of literature concepts in different cultures. He shares his experience about African understanding of such literature themes as love and descriptions of nature.
The author taught African pupils literature at school. They were supposed to read 450-page novel about the Victorian period. The teacher ended up realizing that it would took a great part of the year for students to read such novel. Hence, what students in England would read quickly is a great task for the ones in Africa. The problem consists not only in the language as English is the second language for them. The problem is in understanding of how, for instance, description of the nature could be connected with the plot of the novel. It puzzles them a lot.
In this reading, much attention is paid to the universality in literature: “Usually, when we try to force the concept of universality on someone who is not Western, I think we are implying that our own culture should be the standard of measurement. Why else would we expect all peoples to react in the same way that we do?” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2003). Because of a na?ve conception of the world, people think that everyone beyond their culture lives just as they do. The same applies to literature. What is normal for English students is weird for the African ones and vice versa. That is why, treating general literature concepts in the light of what has been brought up above is a mistake.
People living in the USA or Europe are accustomed to the fact that love can be the main theme of the novel. However, there is a part of the world where love in literature does not exist. Obviously, there are some descriptions of love scenes, kisses, hugs, brides in the African literature, but it is not the main concern of the novel. It is rather something supplementary, which helps the story unfold: “There may be marriage, bride price and an occasional t?te a t?te but that is not the concern of the novel: it is always something else” (Ashcroft et al., 2003). Western romance may puzzle an African reader.
African fiction is more dramatic. Death plays a great role in it; that is why, African readers may miss occurrence of death in a Western reading where it is limited. The reason behind this may lay in the history of the African society. They were slaves for a long period and that was their main concern. Family was something taken for granted and existing only for procreation. Love did not play an important role in their lives.
Another literature concept that should be emphasized is a hero concept. According to the article, “The hero concept—the belief in the individual who is different from his fellowmen—is [also] almost totally alien to African life; and” (Ashcroft et al., 2003). This concept is not only absent in the African literature, but it is also a hardly comprehended one. Family bonds and the spirit of a community are crucial for Africans. They describe it in their novels unlike Westerners.
Thus, the main concert in this piece of reading is the universality in literature. The author states that in general literature is not so limited that only one interpretation is possible. It is definitely not so as everything depends on the reader and his/her worldview created under the influence of culture. Ashcroft et al. (2003) also state “The time has come when we should avoid the use of the pejorative term ‘universal.’ What we really mean when we talk about universal experiences in literature are cultural responses that have been shaped by our own Western tradition.”
All in all, the notion ‘universal’ is a relic of the past and it cannot be used any longer. It concerns mostly universal concepts in literature. The aim of literature is to show something what readers have been previously unaware of. For instance, it strives to show African people that love is beautiful or it gives strong emotions. Thus, it is a thing that should be cherished, as well as showing Western readers that death and devotion to ancestors are extremely important in some cultures. Perhaps, by reading some African novels, Westerners will better understand the African way of life and their values. It is important to read literature of different cultures because it offers knowledge and comprehension that the world exists as a single unit.
The topic of the second reading is “New Ethnicities” by Stuart Hall. The author embraces two phases of black cultural politics – the past and the present ones. “Rather, they are two phases of the same movement, which constantly overlap and interweave” (Ashcroft et al., 2003). The author also emphasizes a shift, which had happened recently. A long time ago, black people were slaves and did not have any rights. It was absurdly to talk about any culture at that time. However, the situation has changed and they are not slaves any longer, they are independent people, and they have evolved their culture: “The shift is best thought of in terms of a change from a struggle over the relations of representation to a politics of representation itself” (Ashcroft et al., 2003).
However, such politics of representation is not simple. It comes from the politics of representation of white people and it does not mean that it is good for black communities. Similarly, the fact that a full turn to the black, claiming that everything black is good and everything white is bad, is not the best way out. It is almost the same as telling that “…all black people are the same. After all, it is one of the predicates of racism that ‘you can’t tell the difference because they all look the same” (Ashcroft et al., 2003).
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Hence, boundaries are rather vague and it is sometimes hard to say where one fringe ends and another one starts. This is the main issues to be dealt with. The author provides examples as well. These are some films like Passion of Remembrance, Territories, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and My Beautiful Laundrette (Ashcroft et al., 2003). These films demonstrate that the politics of representation cannot be done without references to class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. New politics of representation is closely connected with the term ‘ethnicity’. In order to reveal this notion, the author claims that interpretation of the term ‘differences’ is to be introduced. Nowadays, the policy of representation does not suppress differences, but rather encourages them. There is a strong need to fight against ‘decouple ethnicity’ within which the English ethnicity has been built. Its equivalents are nationalism, imperialism, and racism. Hegemonic conception of ‘Englishness’ is also diminished, if not eliminated. There are some improvements, even a shift in the treatment of the ethnicity at the periphery. It is considered to be a good sign because it moves far from the policy of racism, for instance.
As stated by Ashcroft et al. (2003):
We are all, in that sense, ethnically located and our ethnic identities are crucial to our subjective sense of who we are. But this is also a recognition that this is not an ethnicity which is doomed to survive, as Englishness was, only by marginalizing, dispossessing, displacing and forgetting other ethnicities.
The author of this article shows how good changes are. He states that the English ethnicity has survived only ‘by marginalizing, dispossessing, displacing and forgetting other ethnicities’ meaning that they considered themselves superior, causing a lot of difficulties because of this.
In terms of similarities, both articles deal with cultural nuances of the post-colonial society. The first reading reflects it more clearly with examples, while the second one gives an insight into it from a more theoretical perspective. Existence of the post-colonial society is not easy. They have been under pressure of other countries, which is why they remain behind the rest of the world in terms of the art heritage (including literature and films). These communities started to build their culture later when culture of their suppressors had been already formed and prevailed in its manifestations.
Things to which one society, including the post-colonial one, is accustomed to seem strange for another society. It is normal and that is how the world exists. However, recently people have become more open-minded and they are more likely to change the vector of their conception of the world culture as a whole. In such a context, world is considered not as merely a culture, for instance, of Western or developed countries, but as a culture of minor and non-influential societies as well.
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The example of literature from the first reading should be considered in the light of the second reading. The first one tells that people should not only understand literature of the society they have been brought up in as the task of any piece of writing is to deliver a message from a writer to a reader based on his/her experience. Experience of post-colonial countries is extremely bountiful and it has a right to be told as well as to be perceived. It is a direction in which the policy of the modern world culture moves. It is not valid to divide the world culture into important and not important, but to consider it as one unique thing.
There are also some differences in the way how these two readings influence readers. In the first essay, the author claims that there are Western and African cultures, while the second article deals with English and black cultures. Charles Larson talks about the idea of universality in literature, which would definitely make understanding of the piece of fiction easier. Hence, at the end of the article the author abandons such an idea, saying: “For better or for worse, each of us was born into an ethnocentrically sealed world” (Ashcroft et al., 2003). It can be concluded that his theory of intercultural communication is based on the existence of a separate culture, which has its own ethnicity, but which is at the same time a part of the world culture. Stuart Hall puts an emphasis on existence of different ethnicities and afterwards cultures in peace and harmony.
Hence, both articles reveal post-colonial theories as they are about inferior views of Africans and the blacks and consider how colonialism has affected these cultures and societies. Nations discussed in this paper have been under suppression by other countries, which has left an imprint on their worldview, traditions, and cultural heritage. Before dealing with such societies, people must deal with their histories so that they could properly understand them.
Intercultural communication takes place when two cultures interact. Reasons may be different. There are different understatings of this notion as well. “Some authorities limit the term “intercultural communication” to refer only to communication among individuals from different nationalities” (Gudykunst, 2003). “Other authorities, in contrast, expand the notion of intercultural communication to encompass inter-ethnic, inter-religious, and even inter-regional communication, as well as communication among individuals of different sexual orientations” (Martin & Nakayama, 2007; Samovar & Porter, 2004).
Intercultural communication refers not only to communication between people. It is a deep notion that encompasses communication at all levels. Culture is closed system that is self-contained and has clear borders (Rathje, 2009). As this paper proves, there is always a suppressing culture and a suppressed one. It is clear that these two cultures have developed under the influence of each other in different degrees. Nowadays, researchers put an emphasis on fact. The post-colonial culture is deemed suppressed and it is intentionally considered to be worse than the culture of their suppressor. However, there also exists a tendency to treat both cultures as equal.
The central notion of any cultural theory is an individual. When talking about the literature heritage, it is an individual who conveys his/her experience and makes others aware of what they have never thought about. The same is present in all other fields. A lot has been said about a new phase of the cultural policy. Obviously, people will never forget their history, as well as their constant suppression by some other country. What is more, it would be a shame if they do so, but there is still a possibility for a brand new interpretation of their role in the world culture.
The world culture can be considered as a single unit that unites all cultures. Every big thing is made of some smaller parts. These smaller parts are cultures of different countries, but they should be put in different conditions and should move away from a standard clich?, while evolving in their own way. The first thing to do is to give them a right to be totally independent. Subsequently, people should treat their history as a starting point of their new cultural future. Countries that have always been superior must consider seriously manifestation of independent development of post-colonial cultures, as well as respecting them.
Thus, all parts of the world culture would evolve simultaneously, would be independent and it would be a new era of cultural development, as well as intercultural communication. Shift in the treatment of the ‘black’ culture needs to be accomplished in terms of treatment of all other post-colonial cultures. In such case, intercultural communication will be done at one and the same level with engagement of all cultures. Nowadays, post-colonial cultures are mostly interacted with due to some scientific interest rather than with an objective purpose of getting to know them better.
The current paper is about the post-colonial culture. Two societies have been shown as an example. The first one is African and the second is the one that is now called black though it is closely connected with the first one due to the same roots. Each example has been provided in a separate article by scholars who study the notion of post-colonial societies.
Articles have been discussed in the context of this research and, then, they have been considered in terms of their similarities and differences. Obviously, there is one major thing that both articles have in common as they concern post-colonial cultures and how they have evolved. As to the differences, they are manifested in terms of an angle from which these cultures are examined. The first article is mostly about literature, how it differs across cultures, and how it should be interpreted, while the second article is about shifts in the policy of representation. All in all, in modern perception of culture there are some changes as studies of post-colonial countries are becoming increasingly popular. Such awareness of the post-colonial cultures is caused by the fact that modern world considers them as a part of the whole world culture.
The new theory is suggested, according to which any minor culture, despite its history and role it plays in the world policy, is to be respected and properly interpreted. People must change vectors of their world perceptions. All nations have the same rights and opportunities. That is why, even post-colonial countries must evolve their cultures at the same rate as the rest of the world and stop being inferior.
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