The Post-Colonial Christ Paradox: Literary Transfigurations of a Trickster God
Jolly, Gurbir Singh
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Within English post-colonial literary studies, Christianity has often been characterized as principally a colonial imposition and, therefore, only modestly theorized as a post-colonial religion that lends itself to complex post-colonial literary renderings. However, the literary implications of post-colonial Christianity will demand increasing attention as Christianity, according to demographic trends, will over the course of the twenty-first century be practiced more widely by peoples who fall under the rubric of post-colonial studies than by peoples of European ancestry. My dissertation considers how four textsThomas Kings 1993 novel, Green Grass Running Water, Derek Walcotts 1967 play, The Dream on Monkey Mountain, Arundhati Roys 1996 novel, The God of Small Things, and Chigozie Obiomas 2015 novel, The Fishermenfeature Christ-like figures whose post-colonial significance resides in the classical Christological paradoxes with which each is identified. Critically, each of these texts pairs Christological paradoxes with paradoxes associated with pre-colonial trickster figures or trickster spirituality. In imagining the Christ as a paradoxical, post-colonial trickster, my core texts address ambiguities and anxieties attending post-colonial pursuits of empowerment. The mixture of Christological and trickster paradoxes in these texts questions post-colonial understandings of power that remain constrained within a colonially-reinforced imaginary inclined to recognize power chiefly as an exercise in subjugation. Because Christology remains central to Christian understandings of personhood, these texts probing of post-colonial empowerment also remains deeply invested in their explorations of what post-colonial personhood can mean in the wake of dehumanizing colonialism. My core texts bear witness to diverse histories of English colonialism, the unevenness of their attendant Christianizing agendas and the particular, contextual post-colonial currency of the Christological and trickster paradoxes invoked. My dissertation posits that the ambiguity generated by these paradoxes, far from inhibiting ethical action, catalyzes inclusiveness by troubling lingering, colonially established or reinforced hierarchies premised on rigid stratification. In so doing, my dissertation also demonstrates how post-colonial literary Christologiesin my case, those with trickster intonationscan merit extended literary and theological study.