LAYERED TEMPORALITIES - BETWEEN MODERNISM AND POSTMODERNISM - IN JHUMPA LAHIRI’S THE LOWLAND
DOI https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.20.2.5 ☍
Author: Adriana-Elena Stoican
Affiliation: Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania
The discussion approaches Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Lowland, aiming to trace the author’s positioning in relation to modern and postmodern assumptions. The argument follows the main character’s (Gauri) transnational trajectory, as she crosses frontiers in a journey that also spans large temporal dimensions. Gauri’s unconventional choices are to be interpreted in relation with her permanent interest in the nature of time that is also a part of her doctoral research in philosophy. Gauri’s professional goals and her personal destiny appear strongly conditioned by the political context of her pre-emigration days, i.e. the Naxalite movement. All the above suggest that The Lowland can be read as a novel with an implied message about the grand narrative of history in relation to time perception and the possibility of (female) identity formation. Whether Lahiri’s approach to these themes echoes a predominantly (post)modern outlook is the focus of the present analysis.
Keywords: Circular time, Egoism, Linear time, Modernity, Modernism, Postmodernism
Submitted: 1 September 2020
Reviewed: 29 September 2020
Revised: 4 November 2020
Accepted: 27 November 2020
Published: 21 December 2020
Stoican, A-E. (2020). Layered Temporalities – Between Modernism and Postmodernism - in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. English Studies at NBU, 6(2), 249-264. https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.20.2.5 ☍
Copyright © 2020 Adriana-Elena Stoican
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1. Reviewer's name:
Tadd Graham Fernée, PhD, New Bulgarian University
Review Verified on Publons
This manuscript examines Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland (2013). Using a wide spectrum of sources, the manuscript devises an original optic for analyzing the novel. The interpretative strategy might also be fruitful in analyzing other texts with comparable narrative and thematic features. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) comes to mind, because its narrative form is realist, while a strong thematic of mythic circularity pervades the experiences of the protagonists – at least until the fatal destruction of colonial domination in the later section.
The theoretical problem is the investigation of The Lowland as positioned ambivalently between incompatible Modern and Post-Modern premises. The author explains this through the biography of Gauri, the central character, as a transnational trajectory characterized by personal rupture and traumatically violent experience.
The theoretical framework is elaborate and provides the centerpiece of the manuscript. The engagement with the literature/sources is considerable and provides the basis for the theoretical framework. The author succinctly analyses a wide spectrum of literature on The Lowland and then divides this literature into two categories: narrative Realism and thematic Postmodernism. This distinction underpins the Modernist/Postmodernist comparison. How is it, the author asks, that a text can combine narrative Realism with thematic Postmodernism? The author explains this inbuilt tension through studying the central character Gauri biographically (the narrative meaning of her unconventional choices in a life of rupture, trauma and exile) and her intellectual obsession with penetrating the mystery of time (a thematic that shapes her identity and experiences in her life trajectory).
The manuscript presents an argument for hybridity: Gauri becomes displaced between a dual temporal horizon, the progressive and linear time of individual self affirmation (fundamentally, a rejection of traditional gender hierarchy, but ultimately a destructive rejection of wifedom and motherhood, causing her to feel isolation and remorse), and the Schopenhaueren and Nietzschean affinity with the circular time characterizing Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Gauri’s preoccupation with time results from her tragic intersection with history.
Readers interested in cultural studies (i.e. of Asian American experience) or diaspora studies would find this article highly interesting. It also would appeal to readers interested in philosophical and sociological issues of identity construction.
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