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“What I need to see life through rose-colored glasses is a good fuck”: How a Performance of Ambivalent Sexuality Comes to Figure a Site of Metonymic Trangenerational Haunting in Maryse Conde’s Heremakhonon

  • Author(s): Bishop, Elizabeth
  • et al.

Maryse Conde’s novel, Heremakhonon, recounts the story of a woman who is haunted by shadows and traces of an irrecoverable past. The protagonist, Veronica travels to Africa, motivated by a desire to find her ancestors. She doesn’t find her ancestors, but instead displaces this desire elsewhere. This paper will be an attempt to map the oscillations of this desire from its painful origins through to its ultimately productive activity. I want to think about the ways in which a history of the persistent instrumentalization of black women’s bodies comes to be performed in this text through the strategic uses of a sexualized figure. Sexualized black women haunt the history of slavery and the African diaspora; these women have become condensed into a figure of transgenerational haunting which shifts metonymically throughout Conde’s novel. Some questions I am interested in are: How does desire function in this text and what are the significances of its oscillations? How can we go about thinking ambivalence and metonymy together in a literary discourse which engages the history of slavery in simultaneously comical and painful ways? How does a desire constituted by lack come to occupy a place of active, recuperative agency?

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