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Physicians of the World: Postcolonial Women Writers Theorize Human Rights, Healing, and the World


“Physicians of the World: Postcolonial Women Writers Theorize Human Rights, Healing, and the World” is an analysis of ideas of the world produced within literary writings by postcolonial women authors who set their stories in Haiti, Mauritius, and Saint Helena. This dissertation seeks to carve out a space for an alternative postcolonial optic by engaging with literary critics’ growing interest in an expanded notion of the world within literary studies. I argue that Yanick Lahens, Evelyne Trouillot, Edwidge Danticat, Shenaz Patel, and Yvette Christians� are “physicians of the world” who theorize the world’s discontents resulting from the legacy of colonialism. The dissertation develops a hermeneutics of care; a mode of interpretation which teases out the aesthetic, formal, affective, and epistemological qualities of the texts that participate in discussing the ethics of representation and in articulating human rights. This interpretive framework allows me to show that these authors develop concrete notions of the “world” as an expanding community of ideas and beings with shared values. These writers posit that islands are “island worlds,” sites wherein a multiplicity of worlds interact, and sites that serve as a prism by means of which to challenge globalization. The authors overcome writer’s block, immigrant guilt, and repressed memories; by focusing on their writings’ engagement with both personal and collective national trauma I am able to articulate an approach to literature as a critical site of healing processes. I explore postcolonial healings: the solidarities, communities, and social bonds that repair the fabric of human community and put under tension the “Francophone” label. The authors share sensibilities outside of the framework of a common language, thus providing a context in which I define important forms of multilingual transcolonial agencies, namely, the material and textual practices they choose in order to resist various modes of colonization across time and space.

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