Dissertation > Literature > Literary Theory

Study of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Author GuanRongZhen
Tutor CaoShunQing
School Sichuan University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords politics of translation deconstructionism feminism postcolonialism subaltern history teaching machine
Type PhD thesis
Year 2007
Downloads 1347
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Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, one of the most brilliant critics and theorists in contemporary literary criticism, is called a feminist Marxism deconstructivist. With Edward Said and Homi Bhabha, Spivak is acclaimed as one of "the Holy Trinity" of postcolonial theory; with Slavoj Zizek, one of the most energetic post-Marxist thinkers. Harvard University Press has highly praised Spivak as one of the foremost thinkers in postcolonial theory in terms of her great achievement. Spivak is good at writing long theoretical and critical articles, some of which are chosen as "new canon" to be must-read for postgraduates in USA. Overtly using the contemporary domain cultural and literary theoretical discourse, Spivak challenges traditional west-centerism, especially challenges the colonialism of the west in access to the third world and the colonialism influences on west literature and cultural ideology. To some extent, to master Spivak means mastering the general development of the contemporary progress of the west literature theory, where lies the significance of this dissertation. Based on numerous first hand English materials and related Chinese materials, Spivak’s achievements are unfolded in the following fields: translation studies, deconstructionism, Marxism, feminism and post-colonial criticism.This dissertation consists of seven chapters, the first of which is the reason for the study and the introduction of Spivak, focusing on Spivak’s celebrated position in the western academy, contemporary study of Spivak, existing problems abroad and at home, as well as Spivak’s birth and education background. "Translation Studies and The politics of Translation" in Chapter 2 is discussed in three aspects. The first focuses on Spivak’s original ideas in translation studies. Spivak questions the traditional definition of translation and argues translation as reading and reading as translation, according to which the relationships between the original text and the target text, the author and the translator, the original language and the target language are not equivalence between each other, but rather a kind of differance of trace; no longer word transform on the linguistic level, but rather representation in the cultural level; no longer the pursuit of identity, but rather respect to the difference with the other. In section 2, Spivak comes up with the concept of love in translation. She emphasizes that space of difference makes translation become a kind of love between bodies of the author and the translator or reader, after relieving the pressure on spirit and reason. Spivak argues that the task of the translator is to facilitate this love between the original and its shadow, a love that permits fraying, holds the agency of the translator and the demands of her imagined or actual audience at bay. Then Spivak rethinks the methodology of translation and argues that we should abandon those translating skills learned at school and refuse to limit the target text in terms of the Standard English style. In politics of translation and comparison, Spivak’s famous proposition is discussed. Spivak’s proposition gives full play to the thinking in translation studies, turns translation to the field of politics to an extensive degree, which is of great historical importance in translation studies. An analysis and criticism of the contemporary comparison between Spivak and Luxun follows, in which this dissertation points out that though Spivak and Luxun both talk about the politics of translation on the surface, but in depth there are essential differences between the concepts, the starting points & goals, and the translating skills of surrendering to or literal translating. In the last section, the translating practice and translating criticism discusses Spivak’s post-colonial translating practice and criticism. Spivak’s translating Mahasweta Devi into the western world and its translating meaning and politics are analyzed. At last, the research significance is concluded for the Chinese scholars. In the third Chapter, Spivak’s deconstructive practice and the politics of deconstruction are discussed. Her acquisition of deconstruction theory, her understanding, her deconstruction practice and the significance of it are fully unfolded. For Spivak, deconstruction serves to be a powerful political and theoretical tool, with which she skillfully uses various theoretical discourses to perform her unique post-colonial criticism. The fourth chapter is about Spivak’s rereading and criticism of Marxism. Spivak points out that in the post-colonial context, rethinking of Marxism cannot avoid the economic problem and the social change of the world and that Walter Benjamin’s famous saying "there has never been a document of culture which is not at one and the same time a document of barbarism" should be paid attention to. Spivak insists that too much attention paid to the problem of culture and identity and little to the economic problem lead to a blind view to the barbarian robbery of the third world. On the other hand, Spivak criticizes the bias of European male centerism in Marxism with the female labor power in the post-colonialism.Spivak’s research and breakthrough in the field of feminism are discussed in the fifth chapter, as well as her feminist critical practice. The first section involves the discussion of essentialism and strategic essentialism, focusing on Spivak’s strategic essentialism. The second section deals with Spivak’s critique of Freud’s psychoanalysis which centers on "womb-envy" to counter Freud’s "penis-envy", as well as the discussion of clitoridectomy, with which Spivak criticizes various suppression on female, exclusion of female and unfair treatment toward female from the male centerism when female take part in the public competition in the public field. The third section discusses Spivak’s appliance of deconstruction theory in feminism and criticism. Spivak questions and criticizes the west feminist in the fourth section, which include critiques at "international feminism" ,"sisterhood" Julia Kristeva and the Anglo-America feminism. A discussion of the third world female condition follows and is followed by a discussion of the research significance of feminism in the last.The sixth chapter is of Spivak’s study of post-colonialism. There are four sections. The first "post colonial literature study" discusses the definition of post-colonialism and literature study, post-colonialism discourse and rhetoric. There are reading and critique of literature texts in the second section, for a purpose to discover the colonialism consciousness in literary text. Then the analysis of subaltern study follows, which include the subaltern study of the third world and of the first world. Spivak reveals that subaltern class is in the voiceless condition; the political presentation history and condition cannot guarantee the concrete interest of certain subaltern class can be recognized or their voice can be listened. They cannot represent themselves. They must be represented by others. As a result, subaltern cannot speak. The fourth section is of the ethical moral and rethinking of the post colonialism In Spivak opinion, in the post colonial context, the fact that powerless class suffers merciless economic exploitation and political suppression challenges the modern ethical moral. She consciously uses a unique method to present the life and history of the subaltern, challenge the elite discourse to open more space for the subaltern to speak.The responsibility and mission of intellectuals in the context of globalization is discussed in the last chapter, which focuses on Spivak’s intellectual mission in academic study and education from a long neglected field of Spivak, that is, her engagement in the field of teaching machine, As a teacher of the higher education in USA, Spivak naturally extends her criticism to the teaching machine. It is concluded in the end that Spivak’s achievement in the post colonial world fully embodies a margin’s responsibility and commitment to the world’s development, and that she, together with the post colonial critics such as Said, is well deserved the title as the true intellectuals who are brave enough to speak truth to power.The originalities of this dissertation are demonstrated as follows. It is based on considerable first-handed English materials and Chinese materials to launch a comprehensive study of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, after a careful study of the existing condition of studies of Spivak abroad and at home, and the existing problems, which are never studied by others before. The study, involved Spivak’s engagement and achievement in translation studies, deconstructionism, Marxism, feminism, postcolonialism and reform inside the teaching machine, can be regarded as the most comprehensive study of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak at present in the mainland of China. Among the other things, Spivak’s achievements in translation studies and reform inside the teaching machine are original in this field. In addition, based on preview studies of Spivak, this dissertation makes a profound study, which results in several outstanding discoveries in Spivakism, such as "deconstruct the other", "unlearn one’s privilege", "Clitoridectomy", "womb envy" ,"first world subaltern study", and so on. At last, this dissertation defines that Spivak is a postcolonial intellectual who is brave to speak truth to power, according to her political criticism in the postcolonial context with an intellectual’s responsibility and commitment. Important and practical enlightenment for the modern intellectuals in the postcolonial context is offered in this dissertation, which will help to make clear the development of the study of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and be of great importance in further promoting the heat of the study of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in China.

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