by Johan Raskin
Monthly Review Press
“We, the readers and students of literature, have been hijacked. The literary critics, our teachers, those assassins of culture, have put us up against the wall and held us captive.” So begins Jonah Raskin’s The Mythology of Imperialism. When first published in 1971, this book was nothing short of a call to arms, an open revolt against the literary establishment. In his critique of five well–known British writers—Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and Joyce Cary—Raskin not only developed the model for a revolutionary anti–imperialist criticism, but, through this book’s influence on Edward Said, helped usher in the field of postcolonial studies.
Nearly four decades later, The Mythology of Imperialism is all the more relevant. Its readings of British literature still offer bold and original insight into the relationship between text, artist, and historical context. But, perhaps more crucially, this book sends a revolutionary message to all readers and students of literature. Against much of today’s post-colonialism—diluted by postmodern obfuscation and largely detached from its historical roots—Raskin locates the center of his anti–imperialist criticism in the anti–imperialist struggle itself and takes his cues not from “the assassins of culture” in the academy but from the national liberation movements of his time.
Written with absorbing passion and machete–sharp analysis, this new edition of The Mythology of Imperialism includes the original text, a new introduction and afterword by the author, and a preface by Bruce Robbins.