Date of Award

5-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher Orchard, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Cheryl Wilson, Ph.D.

Abstract

While much has been written on gothic and postcolonial literature respectively, postcolonial gothic as a field of analysis is still relatively new. Thus, literary research would profit from a comprehensive, cross-cultural genre analysis of postcolonial gothic. This dissertation, written from a postcolonial theoretical stance, holds that postcolonial gothic is a literature of resistance, one questioning the boundaries of history, gender, race, and social class. However, while postcolonial gothic resists imperialist ideologies, it frequently leaves crises unresolved. It is this work’s thesis that postcolonial gothic can and does interrogate imperial practices, offering hope in the ability to see new worlds and to hear new voices, those extinguished by imperialism, even as it fails to resolve all tensions in the postcolonial world. Beginning with Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), the dissertation analyzes the foundations of gothic literature. It then traces the development of Imperial Gothic in Dacre’s Zofloya (1806), Stoker’s Dracula (1891), and Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). After reviewing gothic encounters with empire, the dissertation moves to the often-despairing landscape of postcolonial gothic, examining Salih’s Season of Migration to the North (1966/1969), Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust (1975), Desai’s Clear Light of Day (1980), and Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians (1980). Next, it examines postcolonial gothic entrapment through van Niekerk’s Triomf (1994, trans. 1999), Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997), and Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory (2005). The dissertation then studies dissolution of identity, family, and culture through Salih’s Season, Kincaid’s Annie John (1985), and Morrison’s Beloved (1987). After portraying a postcolonial landscape of despair, the dissertation focuses on possibilities for resistance. It first examines the literature of monsters through Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) and Rushdie’s Shame (1983). It next moves to fire as a source of destructive creation in Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines (1990) and Abani’s The Virgin in Flames (2007). Finally, it ends with the possibility of creating a new political or cultural existence, as seen in Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981) and John’s Unburnable (2006), while acknowledging the lingering ghost of empire.

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