(Mad)Women in the West Indies: History and Identity in the Caribbean Gothic
Franchi, S. A. (2015). (Mad)Women in the West Indies: History and Identity in the Caribbean Gothic. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14418/wes01.1.1207
This thesis examines the works of three Caribbean writers, Jean Rhys, Jamaica Kincaid, and Shani Mootoo, all of whom engage with the Gothic, a literary tradition that, at first glance, seems a surprising mode of expression for twentieth- and twenty-first-century authors grappling with the legacy of colonialism. I argue that these writers draw from the "Female" Gothic, a subgenre grounded in the works of Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, and the Bronte sisters. In doing so, they adapt gothic conventions in order to explore issues at the forefront of postcolonial studies in the Caribbean, especially concerning the role of a troubled colonial past plays as the impetus for forms of identity that challenge the essentialist, unified self of the white Western male produced by mainstream accounts of colonial history. In their postcolonial gothic novels, all three writers explore and critique the ideas of relation and creolization posited by Edouard Glissant in Caribbean Discourse and Poetics of Relation. Chapter 1 analyses the "gothic conditions" of Rhys' white creole protagonists using Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's spatial model of the Gothic. Chapter 2 uses Julia Kristeva's notion of the abject as a lens through which to understand how horror in Kincaid's novels is tied to the disintegration of the protagonists' identities under the intertwined influences of their mothers and the colonial past. In the final chapter, I discuss how Mootoo combines the queer with the Gothic in order to stake a claim for the continued relevance and value of a postcolonial Gothic that does more than condemn the horrors of the past.