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«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»

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DISPLACEMENT AND THE TEXT: EXPLORING OTHERNESS IN JEAN RHYS’

WIDE SARGASSO SEA, MARYSE CONDE’S LA MIGRATION DES CŒURS,

ROSARIO FERRE’S THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON, AND TINA DE ROSA’S

PAPER FISH

A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in The Interdepartmental Program in Comparative Literature by Melody Boyd Carrière B.A., Middle Tennessee State University, 1998 B.S., Middle Tennessee State University, 1998 M.A., Louisiana State University, 2002 August 2007 Table of Contents ABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………...iv INTRODUCTION: IDENTITY IN LITERATURE……………………………………....1 Four Women: Four Novels………………..……………………………...………...8 Jean Rhys………………………………………………………………..9 Maryse Condé’s Migration…………………………………………….10 Rosario Ferré’s Puerto Rican Novel…………………………………...11 Tina De Rosa…………………………………………………………...14 Italian American and Caribbean: An Unlikely Comparison?

An Overview of Chapters………………………………………………………...24 The Death of the Authors

CHAPTER I : MOTHERS, MOTHER TONGUES, AND MOTHER COUNTRIES… 32

Dreaming of England: Antoinette’s Mother Country in Wide Sargasso Sea……33 The West Indian Landscape of Wide Sargasso Sea……………………………..44 Maternal Images in Condé’s Memoir……………………………………………51 Motherless Sons and Daughters in La migration des cœurs…………………….54 Language as Identity in The House on the Lagoon………………………………59 Motherhood and Marriage in The House on the Lagoon………………………...63 A Marriage to Self: Carmolina’s Autonomy in Paper Fish…………………......68 Hansen’s Law and the Grandmother Figure in Paper Fish……………………...73 CHAPTER II : OTHERNESS AND THE TEXT…………..…………………………...77 Power through the Text: Jean Rhys’ Caribbean…………………………………78 Jean Rhys: A Caribbean Author? ……………………………………..80 Antoinette’s Double as an Object of Desire…………………………...83 Zombification: Rochester as Author in Wide Sargasso Sea………….. 92 “I Will Write My Name in Red”: Antoinette’s Caribbean Identity…...97 The Parrot as Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea……………………...104 Antoinette’s Betrayal…………………………………………………105 Does the Subaltern Remain Silent? Spivak’s Critique of Wide Sargasso Sea…...………………………………….……………….107 Creolizing the Canonical Text: Condé’s Caribbeanness in La migration des cœurs…………………..………………….…………...……… 112 Condé as Author …………………………………………………….112 Métissage in La Migration des cœurs ……………………………….118 The Meaning of Death in Wuthering Heights and La migration des cœurs…...……………………………………..…….124 Textual Digressions………..………………………………………….128

CHAPTER III: TEXTUAL TECHNIQUES IN THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON

AND PAPER FISH…………....……………………………………………………135 Race and Blood in The House on the Lagoon……………………………...136

–  –  –

CHAPTER IV: HISTORY AND LITERATURE IN

THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON…………………………...………………………….182 José Luis González’s Four Stories and Puerto Rican Identity….………...182 Binary Opposition in The House on the Lagoon…………..…………….. 187 An Artist in the Faking: Pavel’s Character ……………………………….189 Isabel and Quintin’s Feud in The House on the Lagoon…………………..194 Endings and Beginnings………………………………………...…………200 BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………204 VITA……………………………………………………………...…………………….212

–  –  –

American women examine identity within a literary tradition that considers them “Other.” I have chosen four culturally diverse novels to explore, each one written by a different female author: Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Maryse Condé’s La migration des cœurs, Rosario Ferré’s The House on the Lagoon, and Tina De Rosa’s Paper Fish. I identify the causes of the protagonists’ displacement, and analyze the actions they take to make themselves heard in a tradition that has formerly silenced them. The role of the mother is especially important in these novels, for the unstable relationship each protagonist has with her mother parallels her uncertainty with regard to her mother country and her mother language. All of the protagonists, with one exception, enter an unhealthy marriage which further pushes them into a marginalized space. Ultimately, they are not only labeled “Other” because of their ethnicity, but also because of their gender.





I argue that through the text the protagonists carve out an identity they were previously denied. In Western literature, there has been little authentic representation of characters considered “Other.” In authoring her own text, however, the “Other” writes for herself. The appropriation and revision of the Western canonical text, the usurpation of power through writing, and the determination to reveal the ethnic experience are all strategies these authors employ to establish their presence within the dominant literary tradition.

–  –  –

Gloria Anzaldúa’s poem Una Lucha de Fronteras/A Struggle of Borders exceeds the basic definition of identity, whose etymology derives from the Latin identidem, meaning same. Identity is often associated with the idea of sameness, of generic character, and collective identity involves individuals who are connected through their own sameness. For instance, they share a common nationality, language, religion, value system, or other similar attribute. Complications emerge when a powerful entity seeks to impose its shared beliefs or identity on a weaker one. In so doing, the stronger body becomes the standard; it is viewed as the entity with which one should identify (i.e.

become identical to) while the weaker is perceived as Other. Therefore, one can argue that identity can only be defined through difference. For example, a common religion is more unifying when placed against a different religion, or a national language is solidifying when held against a foreign language. As William Boelhower states in his book, Through a Glass Darkly, “The Indian was the white man’s first radical contact with the Other, and the American self inevitably had to be defined in relation to him.” 2 If one agrees that identity is formed on the basis of difference, then one can admit that identity A soul buzzing between two worlds, three, four/my head buzzing with contradictions./I am pointed Northward by voices that speak to me/ simultaneously.

William Boelhower, Through a Glass Darkly: Ethnic Semiosis in American Literature (New York:

Oxford University Press, 1987), 9.

is not fixed, but fluid and changing, dependent upon what the exclusionary entity is. For example, in British culture, colonial groups in the West Indies possibly felt unified against a culture that was different from their own. Conversely, in a later generation a Creole may feel that he/she is an outsider in the Caribbean setting, since he/she does not represent the majority.

In regard to culture, it is often the more powerful entity that sets the standard and is seen as possessing “sameness” and rendering the other culture “different.” This exists most often in the First World, which is largely Western. Colonialism is among the strongest examples of the imposition of Western identity on the Third World. As Edward Said claims, colonial domination is justified by the West through the rationalization that the colonial subject is inferior and must be dependent on the West as an authoritative voice. His book Culture and Imperialism examines how empire went beyond a profit making enterprise and sought to instill cultural change within the colonies. Consider also Thomas Macaulay’s “Minute on Indian Education,” in which he insists on an objective

whose goal is to convert the Indian culture to the values of the West:

We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population. 4 Macaulay describes how (Western) knowledge will benefit the Indian peoples and uses language, a key element to identity, as an example of how the West can improve Indian culture by replacing their dialects with Western ones. This assumed benevolence is what postcolonial critic Gayatri C. Spivak terms as “epistemic violence,” in which one belief Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1993), 9.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, Selected Writings (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 239.

system is forcibly replaced by another. In her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” Spivak examines the ambivalent relationship between the colonized and colonizer, in which the “subaltern” is subordinate to the West but nonetheless never fully assumes the dominant Western identity as his/her own. Of this dual character Spivak says, “One must nevertheless insist that the colonized subaltern subject is irretrievably heterogeneous.” In other words, whatever identity of “sameness” the colonial subject had before colonization cannot be recuperated in postcolonial society. Said also contends that though colonialism is now in the past, the effects of imperialism remain, that it “lingers where it has always been, in a kind of general cultural sphere as well as in specific political, ideological, economic, and social practices.” As a result of imperialism, the identity of the colonial subject is split: the subject’s identification is not fully with the Western ideal, but the incorporation of these ideals in the culture has uprooted the previous identification. Therefore the new identity is characterized by what critics such as Homi Bhabha and Gloria Anzaldúa call “hybridity.” The works I will focus on for this dissertation render the hybrid as an autonomous voice in a culture that seeks to generalize the ethnic Other.

The fluid notion of identity that exists in culture also exists in literature, and the notion of identity has changed in literary culture. As I have mentioned, Western tradition is a dominating force and it has been the Western tradition and its canonical texts that serve as the authoritative voice. In literature, this voice determines the characters’ identity and influences the reader’s understanding of these characters. In these texts, characters from other ethnicities are viewed as Other and are set up in opposition to the Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, ed.

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (London: Routledge Press, 1995), 26.

Said, Culture and Imperialism, 11.

white European, such as Bertha in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. These Others are different and therefore unable to be a part of the “sameness” which constitutes a white, European identity. The common factors that make up the Other(s) are never a subject of the text; they are merely compared to the Western standard and are depicted as diverging from this standard.

Enter postcolonial criticism and literature, as well as cultural studies and multicultural texts. These contemporary literary voices are changing the notion of identity, for they argue that “sameness” is an impossible goal for multi-cultural writers to achieve;



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