Difference Wiki

Colonial Literature vs. Post Colonial Literature: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on February 14, 2024
Colonial literature reflects the perspectives and experiences during colonial rule, while post-colonial literature deals with the aftermath and consequences of colonization.

Key Differences

Colonial literature is produced during or about the time of colonialism, often reflecting the viewpoints and experiences of colonizers or colonized societies. It frequently deals with themes of exploration, conquest, and the cultural impacts of colonization. Post-colonial literature, in contrast, emerges after the end of colonial rule and focuses on the aftermath of colonization, exploring themes of identity, resistance, and cultural revival.
In colonial literature, narratives often center around the colonial experience, sometimes glorifying the colonizers' endeavors or depicting the colonized as exotic or other. Post-colonial literature tends to challenge these narratives, offering perspectives that question colonial ideologies and highlighting the struggles and resilience of colonized peoples.
Colonial literature often explores themes of discovery, adventure, and the “civilizing” mission, reflecting the ideologies of the colonial era. Post-colonial literature, however, delves into themes of cultural identity, resistance to oppression, and critiques of post-colonial societies, often addressing issues of race, gender, and class.
The language in colonial literature often mirrors the linguistic and cultural dominance of the colonizers. Post-colonial literature frequently incorporates indigenous languages and dialects, challenging colonial linguistic hegemony and embracing cultural diversity.
Colonial literature has historically influenced the Western literary canon, often overshadowing the voices of the colonized. Post-colonial literature seeks to redefine the literary landscape, bringing diverse voices and stories to the forefront and expanding the understanding of world literature.

Comparison Chart

Historical Context

Produced during colonial era
Emerges after the end of colonial rule

Narrative Perspective

Often from colonizers' view, depicting colonization
Challenges colonial narratives, focuses on aftermath

Key Themes

Exploration, conquest, “civilizing” mission
Cultural identity, resistance, critique of post-colonial society

Language and Style

Reflects colonizers' language and culture
Incorporates indigenous languages, challenges linguistic hegemony

Impact on Literary Canon

Influences Western literary canon
Redefines literary perspectives with diverse voices

Colonial Literature and Post Colonial Literature Definitions

Colonial Literature

Literature produced during or about the colonial era.
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a notable work of colonial literature.

Post Colonial Literature

Literature addressing the aftermath of colonization.
Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is a seminal work in post-colonial literature.

Colonial Literature

Narratives centered around exploration and conquest.
Colonial literature often romanticized the discovery of new lands.

Post Colonial Literature

Literature that incorporates indigenous languages and perspectives.
Post-colonial literature plays a crucial role in diversifying literary voices.

Colonial Literature

Literature reflecting the cultural impact of colonization.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is often interpreted through the lens of colonial literature.

Post Colonial Literature

Works challenging colonial narratives and ideologies.
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie explores themes central to post-colonial literature.

Colonial Literature

Works depicting the experiences and ideologies of colonizers.
Rudyard Kipling's writings are often cited as examples of colonial literature.

Post Colonial Literature

Narratives critiquing the legacy and impact of colonialism.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's writings are influential in the field of post-colonial literature.

Colonial Literature

Literature from the perspective of colonial powers.
Many 19th-century novels represent the colonial mindset, typical of colonial literature.

Post Colonial Literature

Literature focusing on identity and cultural revival post-colonization.
Post-colonial literature often reclaims indigenous cultures and histories.


Are colonial works always written by colonizers?

Not always, but they often reflect the perspectives or ideologies of the colonial powers.

Can colonial literature be critical of colonization?

Yes, some colonial literature may critically portray aspects of colonization.

How does post-colonial literature differ in narrative style?

Post-colonial literature often incorporates indigenous storytelling methods and challenges colonial narrative styles.

What impact did colonial literature have on world literature?

Colonial literature significantly influenced Western literary canon and perceptions of colonized cultures.

Do post-colonial authors write in indigenous languages?

Many post-colonial authors incorporate indigenous languages, though they often write in the colonizers' language too.

What defines colonial literature?

Colonial literature is defined by its focus on the colonial era, often from the perspective of colonizers.

What themes are common in post-colonial literature?

Post-colonial literature commonly explores themes of cultural identity, resistance, and the critique of post-colonial societies.

Does post-colonial literature have a specific geographical focus?

It primarily focuses on regions affected by colonization, particularly Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

How does colonial literature portray colonizers?

It often glorifies or justifies the actions of colonizers.

Is post-colonial literature optimistic about the future?

It varies, but many works express hope for post-colonial societies while acknowledging challenges.

Has post-colonial literature changed literary studies?

Yes, it has expanded the scope of literary studies to include diverse, previously marginalized voices.

Are works by colonized authors during colonial times considered colonial literature?

They can be, especially if they deal with themes of colonization or reflect colonized perspectives.

Does post-colonial literature only come from former colonies?

Primarily, but it can also include works from colonizing countries that critically examine their colonial past.

Do colonial and post-colonial literature share any themes?

They may intersect on themes like identity and power, but their perspectives and treatments differ.

Are there specific genres in post-colonial literature?

Post-colonial literature spans various genres but is united by common themes and perspectives.

Is post-colonial literature part of academic curricula worldwide?

Yes, it is increasingly included in literary studies globally.

Is post-colonial literature only about negative aspects of colonization?

No, it also celebrates cultural resilience and revival post-colonization.

Can a work be both colonial and post-colonial?

Some works may contain elements of both, especially transitional literature during the end of colonial periods.

How do colonial and post-colonial literature differ in portraying indigenous cultures?

Colonial literature often exoticizes or misrepresents them, while post-colonial literature aims to authentically represent them.

Can contemporary literature be post-colonial?

Yes, contemporary works that deal with the legacies of colonialism are considered post-colonial.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons