Transforming Trauma: Memory and Slavery in Black Atlantic Literature since 1830
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CitationKennon, Raquel. 2012. Transforming Trauma: Memory and Slavery in Black Atlantic Literature since 1830. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractTransforming Trauma: Memory and Slavery in Black Atlantic Literature since 1830 examines the interplay between remembering and forgetting in literary and cultural engagements with the trauma of transatlantic slavery. The dissertation considers how intergenerational, trans-temporal trauma becomes re-narrativized and re-envisioned over time in four symbolic sites of slavery (five countries)—Africa (Ghana and Mozambique), the Caribbean (Cuba), Brazil, and the United States—with the goal of exposing differences and emphasizing ruptures. Each chapter functions like a slave schooner arriving at an outpost of the African Diaspora, touring an eclectic transatlantic archive of slavery including art, public space, newspaper clippings, telenovelas, monuments (both imagined and built), song, and advertising copy, then dropping an anchor to explore a more traditional cross section of literature from each national context, juxtaposing canonical and non-canonical works. Taken together, the chapters probe the ways nineteenth and twentieth century Inter-American and African “texts,” broadly defined, register the trauma of slavery in the Black Atlantic. Chapter 1 discusses Brazilian author Bernardo Guimarães’ short novel, A Escrava Isaura (1875) and its wildly popular telenovela adaption in 1976 as an example of one of slavery’s twentieth century kitsch manifestations. The theme of Exodus in African American literature is considered in chapter 2 with a reading of Frances E.W. Harper’s 1869 poem, “Moses,” followed by an extended exploration of the early twentieth century Mammy cult including the 1922 statue proposal. Chapter 3 explores scenes of racial violence and offers a reading of the horrific American ritual of lynching in Jean Toomer’s “Kabnis” and “Portrait in Georgia” in Cane (1923) followed by textual analysis of Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage” (1962, 1966). Chapter 4 focuses on the Brazilian collective memory of the old historic district of Pelourinho in Salvador, Bahia as the former site of punishment at the pillory (whipping post) for enslaved Africans. Close readings in this chapter include Castro Alves’s classic epic poem, “O navio negreiro” from Os Escravos (1883) and Carolina Maria de Jesus’s diary of favela life, O Quarto de Despejo (1960) in addition to shorter readings of the poetry of Alzira Rufino, Esmeralda Ribeiro, Francisco Alvim, and a short novel by Dudda Seixas. Chapter 5 engages with the charged metaphor of sugar and compares the only extant nineteenth century Cuban slave narrative, Juan Francisco Manzano’s Autobiografía de un esclavo (1839) with a twentieth century account of maroon Esteban Montejo’s slave narrative as related to anthropologist/writer Miguel Barnet in Cimarrón: Historia de un esclavo (1966). The final chapter addresses the so-called literary African amnesia around slavery and examines vestiges of the memory of slavery in three African texts: Noémia de Sousa’s “Negra” (1949), Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost (1965), and Ayi Kwei Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons (1973).
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10304429
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