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Formations of Matrilineal Memory: Sites of Trauma within Twentieth-Century Neo-Slave Narratives

  • Author(s): Lee, Jessica Chrsitina
  • Advisor(s): Yarborough, Richard
  • et al.
Abstract

This thesis offers a critical analysis of matrilineal legacies and traumatic memories in twentieth-century neo-slave narratives by black female authors in the literary works of Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and Gayl Jones’s Corregidora. These three novels identify ways in which captivity and liberation, orality and literacy, positionality and self-making situate the black enslaved woman as the physical and psychic bearer of transgenerational trauma. Each novel counters white male supremacy and its connection to violence against the body and power over spatial movement. In response to historical oppression, female protagonists in each text oppose projected master narratives by challenging the various guises of knowledge through reading, writing, speech, and song. Formations of Matrilineal Memory: Sites of Trauma within Twentieth-Century Neo-Slave Narratives contends that the enslaved black woman is at the epicenter of maternal genealogies and unmediated historical erasure.

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