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The IUP Journal of English Studies :
Metaphor, Force Dynamics, and Reactance in Postcolonial Literature: A Comparative Study
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The paper takes identity as a conceptual metaphor in the construction of which psychosocial force dynamics are at work. Identity is thus approached as a site of power struggle between the Agonist and Antagonists. Three works are selected which are both generically and geopolitically different: J M Coetzee’s Foe (a novel), Richard Wright’s “Big, Black, Good Man” (a short story), and Billy Marshall-Stoneking’s “Passage” (a poem). The analytic and comparative methodology of the study allows investigation of the psycho-behavioral (re)action between the Agonist and the Antagonist in the selected works. The type of Agonist’s reactance behavior—namely, inertia, resistance, skepticism, and aggression—is examined and discussed in each work. The study contends that while Foe poses a narrative challenge, “Big, Black, Good Man” represents a physical challenge, and “Passage” brings the Agonist and the Antagonist in a mythic-historical challenge. The common reactance behavior between the Agonists of the three works is inertia. It is concluded that while in psychology, inertia is a state of helplessness, in a postcolonial context, it can signify the Agonist’s resistance to the colonial’s psychosocial forces.

 
 
 

The present study brings cognition, language, and behavioral studies together by analyzing the conceptual metaphors that shape identities, different types of force dynamics, and reactance in Coetzee’s (1986) novel Foe, Wright’s (1986) short story “Big, Black, Good Man,” and Marshall-Stoneking’s (1990) poem “Passage.” This selection shows not only generic diversity but also geopolitical differences that lie between the authors of the works. Despite their differences in all aspects, what interlinks these three works together is their shared colonial experience. Coetzee is a white man from South Africa, living in Australia; Wright is a colored man from an American context still marked with racism; and Marshall-Stoneking is an American who lives in Australia. This selection also aims at targeting the different aspects of colonial encounter: Foe deals with the linguistic and narrative dimensions of the racially other’s identity; “Big, Black, Good Man” reflects on the physical differences that reinforce racist stereotypes; and “Passage” approaches the mythic-historical dimension of the other in colonial encounter.

The study relies on the theories of force dynamics posited by Talmy (1988), conceptual metaphor by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), and Brehm and Brehm’s (1981) notion of reactance behavior. While the first two theories are language-oriented, the third one is psychological. Mere focus on language and linguistic structures would miss the behavioral motivations that define how people react in restrictive times when their freedoms are threatened. This comparative study therefore adopts an eclectic approach and commixes the linguistic and psychological theories together to evince the way the whites and the non-whites react in colonial encounter as presented in these works.

 
 

Journal of English Studies ,Metaphor ,Force Dynamics, Postcolonial Literature: A Comparative Study, J M Coetzee’s Foe: A Narrative Challenge.