Postcolonial hauntologies: Creole identity in Jean Rhys, Patrick Chamoiseau and David Dabydeen

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Chow, Renee Suet
  • Subject: PN

This thesis focuses on the works of Caribbean writers Jean Rhys, Patrick Chamoiseau and David Dabydeen, specifically as they draw upon the mythic and religious beliefs and practices of the Caribbean in their constitution of individual and cultural Creole identity through textuality. The Caribbean tropes of haunting are surreptitious passageways leading to the Creole subject's struggle with the divided affiliations, cross-racial identifications and various forms of dispossession that are colonialism's legacy. As conduits to forbidden and unspoken fantasies, fears and desires, they also serve as the means of reformulating Creole identity. The study of Jean Rhys explores her agonized formulation of Creole identity as an abjection, where the self is (un)made in the nauseating identification with the black female other in the form of the hottentot, mulatto ghost and soucriant. Rhys's racialized abjection establishes Creole identity as a vacillating border state that is fraught with sadomasochistic violence and sickness. Patrick Chamoiseau uses the zombie trope to figure the loss of history, memory and language endemic to the dehumanization of Martinican man. Suppressed Creole culture becomes a part of the collective unconscious, and its uncanny return unmasks the misrecognition of white identification and serves as a strategy of disalienating opacity. Chamoiseau's Creolist manifesto is critically examined against the framework of an erotics of colonialism, to reveal the ventriloquism of the female subaltern who is made to embody the schizophrenic anxieties of the Creole male writer. David Dabydeen's work demonstrates how the family romance of the Creole migrant is erected upon the entombments of native ancestors, literary forefathers and female figures, the phantoms of which return to haunt with the anxieties of influence and the threats of disappearance and perpetual exile. His ekphrastic revisions accomplish the destabilizing and hybridizing functions of tricksterism, but also perpetuate an otherness under the guise of postmodern rewriting.
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