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White African Women Memoir Writing: Grappling with White Privilege Guilt, Emotional Land Domain, and Feminine Inferiority.

  • Author(s): Hyland, Louise
  • Advisor(s): Bosch Santana, Stephanie
  • et al.
Abstract

Abstract

This thesis seeks to explore the intersectionality of Race, Whiteness and Gender Studies through the lens of comparative literature with particular focus on the memoir writing of Alexandra Fuller. Memoir writing, by its very nature, is an emotional and personally challenging endeavor. While the author is at the center of the work, various other actors play a pivotal role in adequately and appropriately conveying the existential crisis, inevitable climax and hopefully, the ultimate resolution. The very egocentric nature of memoir writing demands that the other actors such as characters, location, society and culture be offered in a way that either validate or negate the journey of the author. The challenge for a memoir author is to afford these actors the authenticity and expansion that contributes to the writing and intended ‘story’. An additional challenge arises as the author attempts to adequately bring these actors into play as either friend or foe. Neutrality is hardly ever conducive to the very poignant nature of memoir.

Three concepts that greatly influence the nature of Fuller’s writing will be the focus of this work: White Privilege Guilt, Feminine Inferiority, and Emotional Land Domain. Fuller explores these through various lenses in her writing which, at different times, proves them to be both friend and foe. White privilege guilt is commonly associated with white African women who understand the disparity in privilege between themselves and people of color. The guilt stems from atrocities committed by mostly male racists and should have no bearing on the white women non racists. However, these women completely understand that all the privilege they experience is a direct result of those actions, hence, the guilt. While Fuller navigates the tribulations and challenges as well as privileges afforded her through her race and gender, perhaps the greatest question arises as she explores if her race negates her from even being an African at all. This question is one that troubles many white, women Africans.

This thesis includes the following works by Alexandra Fuller: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood; Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier; Cocktails Under the Tree of Forgetfulness; Leaving Before the Rains Come; and Travel Light, Move Fast. All of Ms. Fuller’s works explore racism, feminism, colonialism, white privilege, land domain, networks, and the contrast between Africanism and Americanism. While this thesis cannot fully explore all of these important features of African memoir writing, they will be touched upon in order to validate the claims regarding the three main concepts.

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