Fertile Matters In Caribbean History: Contemporary Fictional Revisions Of The Sexual And Textual Lives Of Women
This thesis explores how the works of three contemporary women writers “write back” to the silences in the dominant historical narratives--made at various stages of Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s notion of the production of history and in varying ways--surrounding the sexual lives of women of color in the Caribbean and how, in turn, each offers an alternative narrative of women’s history. Chapter 1 focuses on Edwidge Danticat’s novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994), a realist antiromance set in Haiti and the United States during the final years of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) in the 1980s. Chapter 2 examines Rosario Ferré’s novel, The House on the Lagoon (1995), an example of the genre of Latin American feminist historical fiction that follows the history of a Puerto Rican family on the island beginning with the transition from Spanish to U.S. occupation to the textual present (1898-1980s). Chapter 3 situates Andrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song (2010), a neo-slave narrative set in Jamaica in the years leading up to and following emancipation (1807-1898), alongside an original slave narrative, The History of Mary Prince (1831), that recounts Prince’s experiences as an enslaved woman in Bermuda and Antigua in the same era. Enlisting different literary genres, representing regions that are culturally and linguistically distinct, and narrating histories that are centuries apart, these novels certainly share as many differences as commonalities. Yet these differences, when read next to each other, further reveal a transnational interest among contemporary women writers, in the Caribbean and its diasporas, to contest dominant representations and silences of women’s sexuality in Caribbean history and to use fiction to offer an alternative version that spotlights the sexual lives of women.