Portrait of Dr Matthew Whittle

Dr Matthew Whittle

Lecturer in Postcolonial Literature
Director of Graduate Studies (Taught)

About

BA (Sheffield); MA, PhD (Manchester) 

Matthew Whittle’s teaching and research concentrates on postcolonial and global literatures, with special emphasis on the climate emergency, extinction, decolonisation and migration. Matthew’s forthcoming co-authored book Global Literature and the Environment: Twenty First Century Perspectives (Routledge) addresses how the ecological despoiling of land, water, air and life are underpinned by a history of capitalist-imperial relations. The book explores how cultural texts, especially from the Global South and indigenous nations, interrogate dominant discourses of the Anthropocene and enable us to revision global futures.

Matthew’s previous book Post-War British Literature and the “End of Empire” (Palgrave Macmillan) explores responses to imperial decline, focusing on decolonisation, Americanisation and mass immigration to Britain. He has also published articles on post-war Caribbean literature, post-colonial African nationalism and depictions of trophy hunting in contemporary art. His research has informed contributions to The Independent, Newsweek, Wire and The Conversation. 

 Matthew is a member of the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies and the Kent Animal Humanities Network. In addition, he is a co-founder and steering committee member of the Northern Postcolonial Network.

Research interests

  • Postcolonial studies, with a specific interest in ecocriticism, post-imperial Britishness, Caribbean literature, Southern African literature, migration and diaspora
  • Twentieth and twenty-first century literature, including modernism and post-modernism
  • Animal studies, concentrating on species extinction/endangerment, trophy hunting and postcoloniality 

Supervision

Matthew would consider PhD proposals that relate to any of the above topics.  

Publications

Article

  • Whittle, M. (2016). Lost trophies: Hunting animals and the imperial souvenir in Walton Ford’s Pancha Tantra. Journal of Commonwealth Literature [Online] 51:196-210. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021989415624957.
    This article argues that the work of contemporary American artist Walton Ford stages the paradoxical role that trophy hunting played in both establishing and undermining the strict racial, biological and ecological hierarchization of colonial environments. American Flamingo (1992) and Lost Trophy (2005), from the 2009 collection Pancha Tantra, foreground how the tradition of nineteenth-century naturalist art, characterized by John James Audubon, and popular narratives of trophy hunting expeditions, such as Ernest Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa (1935), are complicit in colonialist domination. In doing so, Ford’s watercolours of hunted animals, which adopt many of the tropes popularized by Audubon, point to the Spivakian notion of “epistemic violence” behind an ostensibly innocuous, taxonomic art form. At the same time, the painting Lost Trophy recalls the writings of Joseph Conrad and George Orwell, investing animals with the power to unsettle the assumed superiority of the colonial hunter. My interdisciplinary analysis adopts literary strategies for reading artistic works, allowing for a broader understanding of the growing relationship between postcolonial studies and ecocriticism.
  • Whittle, M. (2015). Afterword: The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, postcolonial studies and the provinces. Journal of Commonwealth Literature [Online] 50:391-397. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021989415596562.
    This Afterword to the 50th anniversary issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature reflects on the journal’s establishment in Leeds, and the broader place that provincial regions played in generating interest in postcolonial and Commonwealth literatures. Drawing on archival research, it seeks to explore how the shifts in attitudes towards class and race in post-war Britain can be read as contributing to a dissent from a metropolitan literary establishment.
  • Whittle, M. (2015). Hosts and hostages: Mass immigration and the power of hospitality in post-war British and Caribbean literature. Comparative Critical Studies [Online] 11:77-92. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/ccs.2014.0145.
    This article examines the challenge to colonialist centre-periphery relations in post-war novels by white British and Caribbean writers. Concentrating on the relationship between political debates surrounding mass immigration and the marginalization of non-white migrants within British communities, I analyse texts that depict the threshold of the home as the politicized site of racial tension, namely Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956), V.S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men (1967), Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), and Anthony Burgess’s The Right to an Answer (1960). In varying ways, these texts depict the durability of centre-periphery relations at local levels through the informal segregation of the colonizer and the colonized. In doing so they point to what Jacques Derrida has outlined, in Of Hospitality (2000), as the power relationship inherent in policies of immigration, whereby the host-nation remains in control of the conditions upon which hospitality rests.
  • Whittle, M. (2014). “These dogs will do as we say”: African nationalism in the era of decolonization in David Caute’s At Fever Pitch and Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Journal of Postcolonial Writing [Online] 51:269-282. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2014.968289.
    This article examines responses to the impact of colonialism on post-independence national unity in Africa from the perspective of the colonizer and the colonized. Written out of experience of decolonization in Ghana, At Fever Pitch, published in 1959 by the British novelist David Caute, depicts western models of economic development and nationhood as derailing the emancipatory possibilities of colonial self-determination. It is a preoccupation that was also central to anti-colonial political thought during the era of decolonization, most notably in Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1965), and would become highly contested in the field of postcolonial studies. Rather than viewing the perspectives of the colonizer as fundamentally antithetical to postcolonial politics, this article analyses the way in which Caute and Fanon mount two distinct but not oppositional critical responses to the transfer of power from European imperial elites to a self-interested national middle class. By attending to the form of At Fever Pitch, moreover, this paper will register the extent to which Caute’s intervention into debates about the rise of nationalism in the colonies disrupts prevailing interpretations of British “end of Empire” fiction as mourning the end to British colonial dominance.

Book

  • Whittle, M. (2016). Post-War British Literature and the "End of Empire". [Online]. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54014-0.
    Post-War British Literature and the ‘End of Empire’ examines responses to decolonization in novels by British colonial servant and settler writers – including Anthony Burgess, Graham Greene, William Golding, Alan Sillitoe and Colin MacInnes, among others. These works not only depict decolonization within its global context but often propose a solution to Britain’s imperial decline through cultural renewal.

Book section

  • Whittle, M. (2014). ‘The hollow shell of nationality’: Competing nationalisms and the emergence of dictatorship in David Caute’s At Fever Pitch. In: Writing Difference: Nationalism, Literature and Identity. New Delhi: Atlantic Books, pp. 189-210. Available at: https://www.atlanticbooks.com/subjects/english-literature/9788126919383.
    In its depiction of the hijacking of the African nationalist movement by a self-serving African middle-class, David Caute’s At Fever Pitch (1959) disrupts unilinear conceptions of British literature of decolonisation and complicates contemporary postcolonial debates around nationalist ideology and practice. Synchronic and diachronic accounts of British literature and the end of Empire have tended to focus on a shared preoccupation with imperial retrenchment (Taylor 1993, Sinfield 1997: 2004, Esty 2004), while the re-emergence of regionalism and state control in developing countries since decolonisation has led many postcolonial critics to view nationalism, as Laura Chrisman holds, as ‘inherently dominatory, absolutist, essentialist and destructive’ (2004: 183). In At Fever Pitch, however, Caute foregrounds the complex transition to independence in Africa and depicts the emergence of a totalitarian form of nationalism as a legacy of British colonial rule.
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