Breaking the Silence: First-Wave Anglophone African-Caribbean Women Novelists and Dynamics of History, Language and Publication

Anim-Addo, Joan Lilian. 2001. Breaking the Silence: First-Wave Anglophone African-Caribbean Women Novelists and Dynamics of History, Language and Publication. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis identifies and historicises an emergent tradition of Anglophone African-Caribbean women's fiction, analysing the silence(s) broken through publication. I argue that voicelessness relates to dominant traditions of being 'spoken for', characterised by representations of African-Caribbean women as bodies without minds. Exploring meanings of 'Relation' (Glissant, 1997) replicated in first-wave novels, particularly in selected texts by Erna Brodber, Merle Collins, Zee Edgell, Beryl Gilroy and Joan Riley, I develop, in the intersections of feminism(s), Foucauldian theory, hermeneutics and narratology, carnivalised strategies for reading the silence-breaking texts while privileging meanings drawn from within the culture.

Part One explores through Black female figures in portraiture, poetry, fiction, and autobiography, the historical constructions of African-Caribbean womanhood, the processes of silencing and the first claiming of authorial voice. Engaging with pre-Emancipation testimonies from enslaved women, I argue the relationship between the distortions of plantation culture and the institutionalising of silence and, focusing on the years between Mary Prince's slave testimony (1833) and Sylvia Wynter's Hills of Hebron (1962), I address questions of the changes allowing publication of the first African-Caribbean woman's post-slavery novel.

Part Two focuses on a reading of African-Caribbean texts concerned with a traumatic and silenced past, and investigating meanings of creolisation within the texts, I develop a carnivalised discourse. This discourse deriving from a dialogic, cross cultural tradition is inclusive of women's poetic voices, such as M. Nourbese Philip's, and specifically addresses issues of reading. Particular attention is paid to tailoring feminist literary theory attentive to meanings of 'Relation' and critical silence. Borrowing notions of voice and the construction of gender from Lanser's narratology (1992), I conclude by stressing the vital importance of attending to the theorising internal to the works of African-Caribbean women writers themselves.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00028624

Keywords:

Anglophone African-Caribbean Women Novelists, History, Language and Publication

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature

Date:

2001

Item ID:

28624

Date Deposited:

02 Jun 2020 11:55

Last Modified:

02 Jun 2020 11:55

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/28624

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