Prose of the World identifies and explores the way the banality of everyday life and the boredom that often accompanies it paradoxically shape a narrative instinct along the margins of the global British empire from late colonial modernism to the present day as revealed in the fiction of four writers: James Joyce from Ireland, Katherine Mansfield from New Zealand, Zoe Wicomb from South Africa, and Amit Chaudhuri from India. Majumdar foregrounds the banal as a key instinct of modern and contemporary fiction—one that nevertheless remains submerged because of its antithetical relation to literature’s intuitive function to engage or excite. Majumdar suggests that this impoverished affective experience of colonial modernity significantly shapes the innovative aesthetics of modernist fiction. Prose of the World thus presents the literary modernism of banality as an aesthetic which, though seemingly isolated from the tremors of public history, is more symptomatic than conclusive.
Introduction: Poetics of the Prosaic
1. James Joyce and the Banality of Refusal
2. Katherine Mansfield and the Fragility of Pakeha Boredom
3. The Dailiness of Trauma and Liberation in Zoe Wicomb
4. Amit Chaudhuri and the Materiality of the Mundane
Epilogue: The Uneventful
Saikat Majumdar is an assistant professor of English at Stanford University and the author of a novel, Silverfish.