Works of mourning: Francophone women's postcolonial fictions of trauma and loss
Almquist, Karin Marie, 1966-
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Almquist, Karin Marie, 1966-
This dissertation project seeks to connect the thematic concerns of Francophone women's post-colonial fiction to broader issues of breaking cycles of violence and resisting the negative effects of globalization. An important part of the study will be a discussion of the historical trend towards the mechanization of nature to account for an ideology of domination that the West has exported to its colonies. Borrowing especially from Carolyn Merchant and the Frankfurt School of critical theorists but also from feminist object relations theorist Jessica Benjamin, I trace masculine culture's will to mastery over a weaker other to a primal fear of chaotic nature and the omnipotent Mother. Violence that is currently directed at nature, women and children, and that is a central theme in the narratives I consider, has a long history. Colonization in all its forms stands out as the main characteristic of this history that will continue to repeat itself if left unexamined. My project demonstrates how these particular post-colonial novels engage with the past in such a way as to diffuse the internal mechanism of abusive power. There are two principle components of this engagement: one is the bringing-to-light of a buried history, personal and collective, that Western, masculine culture strives to repress. The other is the creation of an aesthetic that offers a means to mourn a traumatic past, thereby initiating a process of emotional and social healing. Both phenomena serve as political resistance to a hegemonic system based on denial of loss. In these novels I refer to this aesthetic of mourning as a "feminine symbolic of loss" to distinguish it from a traditional male canon of melancholy literature which instead capitalizes on loss for its own advancement. Their representations of oft-tabooed subjects attest to a refusal to comply with the cultural mandate of silence, driving a wedge into that mechanism of power that perpetuates itself by the disavowal and repression of loss.
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