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Self-reference and social context in the writings of V.S. Naipaul

Hayward, Helen Jane; (1998) Self-reference and social context in the writings of V.S. Naipaul. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis is devoted to an exploration of the historical and literary background of Naipaul's writings. It examines the structure of their internal relations and the practice of self-reference evident in his work. It explores the way that A House for Mr Biswas alludes to his father's works: the novel not only describes family relations, but, as a tribute from son to father, is an aspect of them. It contrasts his non-fictional account of family history in "Prologue to an Autobiography", and that of his brother Shiva Naipaul in Fireflies. The narrative technique of his article on Michael X is compared to that of his novel Guerrillas. The novel's use of the outsider's perspective is seen as indebted to Conrad's method in Heart of Darkness. The thesis discusses the treatment of the female protagonist in the article and in the novel. The Enigma of Arrival is read as a dialogue of past and present selves, and is compared with other narratives of colonial migration to the metropolis, and with Naipaul's other accounts of his life. The thesis examines the work's allusions, and its ambivalence towards the idea of England. A discussion of his Indian travel books looks at the context of his Hindu ancestry: he sees himself as both insider and outsider in India, and his dissection of its society serves to define, ironically, his own practice. His Indian writings are compared with works by Kipling, E.M. Forster, Rushdie, R.K. Narayan and Nirad Chaudhuri. A Bend in the River is interpreted in the context of traditional images of Africa in European literature, and of his non-fictional discussions of Zaire in A Congo Diary and the article on Mobutu. Similarities with In a Free State and Guerrillas are identified. The thesis considers the manner in which A Way in the World reworks The Loss of El Dorado, and suggests that both portray history as tending to repeat itself; connections are established between this view of history and the structure and style of these works.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Self-reference and social context in the writings of V.S. Naipaul
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Naipaul, V.S.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100050
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