UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A sentient history : sensory memory in women's literature of the Caribbean diaspora Glenn, Brittany Austin


The slave trade and colonial regimes disrupted the collectivity and history of the Caribbean populations. The absence of firsthand victim accounts in institutionalized historical records, e.g., chronicles of national history, and the current displacement of diasporic communities negate the effectiveness of ‘lieux de mémoire’, relegating collective memory to an abstraction of cultural remnants and personal narratives. However, several contemporary Caribbean works present a female protagonist with an embodied connection to history and culture, despite a lack of experiential knowledge and/or removal from the communal context. The corpus of this study includes Marie Célie-Agnant’s Le livre d’Emma (2001), Simone and André Schwarz-Bart’s Un plat de porc aux bananes vertes (1967), and Gisèle Pineau’s L’Exil selon Julia (1996). I approach this phenomenon by investigating the meanings associated with physical sensations that trigger reminiscence and their connections to collective memory. I link trans-generational memory to the acculturation of Caribbean women’s bodies as sites of history and position sensory memory as a form of ‘living’ memory that transcends geographical displacement and temporal distance. The continuity of sensory memory establishes embodied solidarity between ancestors and the ‘postmemory’ generation who are faced with cultural alienation.

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