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Myths of the Nation focuses on the construction of forms of historical consciousness in narratives, or schools of narrative. The study seeks to underscore what goes behind the writing of 'true' and 'authentic' histories by treating historical fiction as the literary dimension of nationalist ideology. It traces nationalism from its abstract underpinnings to its concrete manifestation in historical fiction which underwrites the Indian freedom struggle. The construction of identity through mythicized conceptions of India is examined in detail through Raja Rao's first novel, Kanthapura. The key concept governing the subject is that of representation. Since the 'fictional reality' of the nation is a much debated issue, the study examines how history slides into fiction. The author shows how orientalist, nationalist, Marxist, subalternists, and poststructuralists, have all, in their own celebratory ways, used the disenfranchised sub-proletariat in their works. What she finds useful in poststructuralist practices, however, is that subaltern identities are imbued with heterogeneity, thus splitting open an authoritarian and reactionary nationalism, and a continuing neo-colonialism.
Rumina Sethi is a British Academy Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, and has written widely on Postcolonial Cultural Studies.