Family Matters in Jamaica Kincaid's <i>The Autobiography of My Mother</i>

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alexandra W. Schultheis Moore, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Amit S. Rai begins his essay, "’Thus Spake the Subaltern…’: Postcolonial Criticism and the Scene of Desire," with the following question: "If we are sure today that the subaltern cannot speak, can we be as sure that her ghost does not, especially when postcolonial criticism seems to re-present the discourse of that ghost?" (91). In The Autobiography of My Mother, that ghost speaks in multiple voices which blur the lines between fiction, biography, autobiography, and criticism. I adopt Rai’s figure of the ghost here not to detract from the powerful subjectivity of Kincaid’s narrator, Xuela, whom Kincaid calls "more godlike" than her previous protagonists, but to emphasize her ability to transcend traditional literary and political realms.[1] Xuela tells of her life on postcolonial Dominica, and while her story is intensely private, avoiding mention of the island’s political affairs in favor of her thoughts and relationships, it is imbrued with the history of colonialism and slavery. The story also draws on Kincaid’s own life (as does all of her fiction) and that of her grandmother, such that, as Alison Donnell writes in "When Writing the Other is Being True to the Self," "we cannot be certain who the auto-biographer is [of] this text, or if there is more than one, for if this is Kincaid’s mother’s auto/biography, then Kincaid is still present as the ‘ghost’ writer/biographer" (127). The layered voices of the female narrator disrupt familiar patterns of subjectivity and nationhood as well as the autobiographical form.

Additional Information

Jouvert 5.2 (Winter).
Language: English
Date: 2001
Literary analysis, Jamaica Kincaid, Family

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