Tisseroman: The Weaving of Female Selfhood within Feminine Communities in Postcolonial Novels

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The central analytic concern of this dissertation is the problem of privileging one, true, unified, singular self as the essential focus or goal with respect to contemporary French- and English-language novels by women authors from Africa and the Caribbean. In the past, feminist critics, in particular, have read these texts through a Western lens that valorizes individualism and separateness, while subjectivity in these texts stresses a larger participation with family, society, and nation. My thesis offers a re-reading of these texts to argue that the women writers re-conceptualize the relationship between an individual and society through their depiction of local struggles against gender and racial oppression, particularly with reference to the female experience of self and feminine community. While my corpus is varied in terms of language and geography but unified in its genre and themes, I draw from different geographic locations to focus on how these black women writers problematize notions of development and female identity through their depiction of women and women's experiences and women's ways of knowing self and community. The intent of this dissertation is to examine how specific, unconventional communities can be used to explore notions of female subjecthood and authorship in postcolonial novels of development. Because of its intricate connections to communities of other subjects, this narrating "I" represents a denial of a totalized, self-contained subject. The title that I use to describe this set of novels is tisseroman because it more correctly places the importance of narrating the interplay of multiple voices rather than one singular voice.

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  • 09/12/2018
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