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Title: Mother/Motherland in the Works of Jamaica Kincaid
Author: Brancato, Sabrina
Director: Firth, Kathleen
Keywords: Maternitat
Temes en la literatura
Themes, motives
Kincaid, Jamaica
Issue Date: 1-Jun-2001
Publisher: Universitat de Barcelona
Abstract: The quest for an autonomous and authentic self is the founding theme of the narrative of Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid. In our study, we analyse the mother-daughter relationship, which is the focus of Kincaid's plots and which, as we argue, functions as a methaphor for the dialectic of power and powerlessness governing nature and history. On one level, we observe that the narrative articulates universal paradigms, such as the passage from a paradisiacal pre-oedipal union between mother and child to a painful but necessary breach for the affirmation of the child as a separate individual. On the other hand, placed in the specific context of the Caribbean in colonial times, the mother-daughter plot not only acquires a particular sociological interest, being explored in a set of interlocking relationships of race, class and gender, but it is one that can also read as an allegory of the conflict between the mother-country and the daughter-colony. Both maternal power and imperial power are narcissistic since they demand acquiescence and imitation, while, in both cases, conflict arises at the first signs of emerging maturity. Mothering seems to be seen as a process of othering which produces alienation, and as the child has to negotiate a separation from the mother to become an autonomous individual, so the colony has to break free from the oppressive power of the mother country. In any event the process is a painful one and the final achievement of the goal is always imbued with the tremendous sense of loss that comes with freedom. Thus, because Kincaid's understanding of the world passes through personal experience and is articulated in domestic terms, the autobiographical love-hate relationship between mother and daughter becomes the primal paradigm of life, whereby a politics of resistance to all forms of domination is envisaged as the basis of freedom at multiple levels, and alienation is used as a means of liberation. The mother/motherland metaphor is played out at two levels. At one level, the nurturing and loving mother of childhood may represent the African-rooted Caribbean world, a world made of beauty and innocence where Kincaid's dramatis persona feels protected and happy. At the other level, in striking resemblance to Mother England, when the daughter starts to show signs of autonomy, the mother abandons praise and approval for scorn and begins a violent struggle to keep the daughter under her subjection. It seems, then, that two conflicting worlds, the African and the European, meet in the two-faced figure of the mother. In her quest for freedom, the daughter must fight against the overwhelming and oppressive power of the mother (biological and colonial), but in the end it is the mother (the nurturing mother of childhood / the African-rooted world) that provides her with the means for survival and self-affirmation.
Note: NOTE: This doctoral thesis is also published on book. It will be avalaible on the Peter Lang Press before October 2005.
ISBN: 846889687X
Appears in Collections:Tesis Doctorals - Departament - Filologia Anglesa i Alemanya

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