Salman Rushdie, Myth and Postcolonial Romanticism



The phenomenon whereby postcolonial literature conducts a special relationship with canonical British Romanticism is worthy of study in itself. Katie Trumpener has revealed the way in which, in a closely parallel phenomenon, the Irish national novel, from the Romantic period downwards, contributes the idea of a specifically national bardic inspiration to emerging colonial and postcolonial literatures. As far as British Romanticism is concerned, one needs to estimate the influence of Wordsworth on Derek Walcott; one needs to ask why Wordsworth is recited in Anita Desai’s In Custody, or why David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon takes its epigraphs from Blake and Clare, or why Ben Okri appropriates a phrase of Blake for his Mental Fight- or why Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses weaves the influence of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell into an already complex handling of the uncanonical verses supposedly dictated by the devil to Muhammad and subsequently excised. A general answer would have to do with the ironic discovering of what purports to be a universal and liberating message of truth in the sacred texts of the imperial power, a message, which, moreover, can be represented as consonant with the truths conveyed more locally, for instance, in the Urdu and Persian poetry which are the classics of North India. In the case of Blake, there is also the fact of his emphasis on conflict, on contrariety, to be considered.


Language Game Modern Literature Grand Narrative Imperial Power Evil Nature 
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  1. 1.
    Ben Okri, Mental Fight (London: Phoenix, 1999), 5.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (London: Random House, 1988), 549.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Arun Kolatkar, Jejuri (Bombay: Clearing House, 1976).Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, foreword by Fredric Jameson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), 15.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    See the discussion in John Beer, ‘Blake’s Changing View of History: The Impact of The Book of Enoch’, in Historicizing Blake, Steve Clark and David Worrall, eds (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), 159–78 (pp. 161–64).Google Scholar

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© Edward Larrissy 2006

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