Searching for a “Different Kind of Freedom”: Postcoloniality and Postfeminist Subjecthood in Zadie Smith’s NW

Lourdes Lopez-Ropero

Abstract


This paper attempts to open a new line of inquiry into Zadie Smith’s fourth novel NW (2012) by drawing attention to her investment in the contemporary feminine experience. I argue that by bringing women to center stage, NW marks a turning point in Smith’s fiction, while also bearing the hallmarks of the author’s previous work, namely her concern with Britain’s postcolonial legacy and issues of human connection. While Smith’s focus on self-monitoring educated women links the text to a postfeminist paradigm, the fact that these characters, and others, are of immigrant background locates the novel in the terrain of Britain’s postcolonial history and its multicultural present in twenty-first century London. My contention will be that far from adopting a celebratory approach to her postfeminist subjects as harbingers of social change, Smith points at the disabling aspects of this ideology, and the prevalence of racial and gender inequalities, problematizing individualistic notions of failure as self-responsibility.

Keywords: postcolonialism; connectedness; postfeminism; female friendship; bildungsroman; impressionistic narrative


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