Description: The dissertation traces the trope of the incomplete character in four twentieth-century cosmopolitan novels that reflect European colonialism in a global context. I argue that, by creating characters sharply aware of the insufficiency of the Self and thus constantly seeking the constitutive participation of the Other, the four authors E. M. Forster, Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee, and Congwen Shen all dramatize the incomplete character as an agent of postcolonial resistance to Western humanism that, tending to enforce the divide between the Self and the Other, provided the epistemological basis for the emergence of European colonialism. For example, Fielding's good-willed aspiration to forge cross-cultural friendship in A Passage to India; Murphy's dogged search for recognition of his Irish identity in Murphy; Susan's unfailing compassion to restore Friday's lost speech in Foe; and Changshun Teng, the Chinese orange-grower's warm-hearted generosity toward his customers in Long River--all these textual occasions dramatize the incomplete character's anxiety over the Other's rejection that will impair the fullness of his or her being, rendering it solitary and empty. I relate this anxiety to the theory of "posthumanism" advanced by such thinkers as Marx, Bakhtin, Sartre, and Lacan; in their texts the humanist view of the individual as an autonomous constitution has undergone a transformation marked by the emphasis on locating selfhood not in the insular and static Self but in the mutable middle space connecting the Self and the Other.
Date: August 1998
Creator: Lin, Lidan