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Beyond recovery: The uses of history in contemporary African American and Caribbean literature

Black Caribbean Literature (BCL)
McMorris,Kristy K. (Author)
Publication Date:
New York: New York University
African American Research Center, Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject Term:
Caribbean area, History, Blacks, Literature, Martinique, Fiction, African Americans, Chamoiseau, Patrick, 1953-, Families, Conde, Maryse, 1937-, Guadeloupe, Black Atlantic, Filiation, Heritage, Jones, Gayl, 1949-, Lorde, Audre, 1934-1992
335 p., A central premise of this project is that individuals and communities perceive the significance of history differently depending on their historical conditions. Indeed, much of the emphasis on memory studies in the last two decades has been informed by an awareness of changing perspectives on the past. Thus, given its focus on black peoples in the United States and the Caribbean, this dissertation aims to illuminate an emergent historical consciousness in the African Diaspora in the late 20th century. This dissertation is divided into two sections. In Part I, "Ancestors: Exploring Historical Inheritances," I analyze Maryse Conde's Les derniers rois mages (1993) and Patrick Chamoiseau's Texaco (1993) as they interrogate the concept of familial lineage and query the significance of the past imagined as an inheritance. Whereas Chamoiseau questions the ability of written history to represent memory and experience, Conde empties the idea of heritage of all significance as new relationships to the past come to the fore. In Part II, "New Birth: Exploring Discourses of Reproduction," I focus on Gayl Jones' Corregidora (1975) and Audre Lorde's Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) as they reveal the limitations of genealogical discourse. By creating their pasts and imagining their heritage, the characters in these texts challenge the primacy of lineage as they point toward other, more viable networks of community and belonging.