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Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (2)

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Presentation on theme: "Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (2)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Stories of growth: Caribbean Women Writers (2)
Olive Senior & Michelle Cliff

2 Outline Caribbean Women Writers: Major Themes Michelle Cliff: Introd.
Abeng Chap 15-17 hunting scene and its reasons; bathing scene and what it reveals –gender and race the issue of languages Olive Senior: Introd. “Bright Thursday” color scheme and education; the father’s (lack) of influence

3 Caribbean Women Writers: Major Themes
female Bildungsroman: stories of growth and development--national or racial allegory: the personal as the political racial and class issues and the process of socialization Gender stereotypes and inequality “Mother Country” vs mother land (relations to the Caribbean landscape) education and mother-daughter relationship--usually alienation the grandmother as the positive figure

4 Working Miracles: Women’s Lives
absent father (mother) child-shifting (adoptions –“Bright Thursdays” adopting to fill in an empty space for the grandparents 210) Single mothers as breadwinners (1/2 of the Caribbean households are headed by women) Outside children -- children born out of a father’s stable residential union; legitimacy is not an issue Olive Senior, Working Miracles: Women’s Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean (Chapter 1)

5 Michelle Cliff--Introduction
born in Jamaica, educated in the US and UK and now resides in the USA works: Abeng (1984) –our excerpt No Telephone to Heaven (1987) “White Creole” Identity: “My family was called red. A term which signified a degree of whiteness In the hierarchy of shades I was considered among the lightest. The countrywomen who visited my grandmother commented on my 'tall' hair - meaning long. Wavy, not curly (Cliff, 1985: 59).

6 Michelle Cliff--Major Themes
Interaction of gender, sexual, class, racial identities the issue of language the importance of history and oral culture “colourism” or color prejudice in Jamaica the issue of passing (129) “Passing demands a desire to become invisible. A ghost-life. An ignorance of connections…. Passing demands quiet. And from that quiet--silence.” “Passing”

7 Cliff on Clare Savage Clare Savage "is an amalgam of myself and others, who eventually becomes herself alone. Bertha Rochester is her ancestor. Her name, obviously, is significant and is intended to represent her as a crossroads character, with her feet (and head) in (at least) two worlds. Clare: a light-skinned female who has been removed from her homeland in a variety of ways and whose life is a movement back, ragged, interrupted, uncertain, to that homeland. She is fragmented, damaged, incomplete.“ (e.g. her missing her mother)

8 Cliff on Clare Savage Savage: “Her surname is self-explanatory. It meant to evoke the wilderness that has been bleached from her skin, understanding that my use of the word wilderness is ironic, mocking the master’s meaning, turning instead to a sense of non-Western values which are empowering and essential to survival, her survival, and wholeness. ("Clare Savage as a Crossroads Character" 264-5)

9 The Meaning of Abeng “Abeng is an African word meaning conch shell. The blowing of the conch called the slaves to the canefields in the West Indies. The abeng has another use: it was the instrument used by the Maroon armies to pass their messages and reach one another.” Abeng

10 Characters in Abeng (colonists; planters) Samuel & Judith;
Judge Savage (landed, red) Albert & Mattie Freeman; Kitty Freeman Boy Savage Clare Savage; Jennie Savage Ben (C’s cousin) & Joshua (half cousin) Miss Ruthie (squatter, black) Zoe the cane-cutter Mass Cudjoe (the pig) Old Joe (the bull)

11 Abeng: our excerpt Chap 15: hunting episode
The natural world outside the plantation; Clare and hunting pp. 114 (Clare’s memory) – Zoe’s persuasion: against hunting. Pp. 116 Bathing pp. 119 (Clare’s reflection); Cane-cutter’s interruption Chap 16: implication and causes of Clare’s acts Why shoot? Robert Clare Boy vs. Kitty Chap 17: consequences: Zoe’s thinking Clare’s facing the grandmother

12 Abeng: Starting Questions
Why do you think Clare wants to go hunting? Why is the cane-cutter’s sudden presence so embarrassing?

13 The Hunting Episode in Context
The history of natural lives//colonialism pp. 112 the origin of the pig--the native of the island the Maroon ritual and gender differences the mongoose from India (112) “the true survivor” (113) symbolic meaning—about hunting and survival; how the natural habitat has been changed by colonial practices Does Clare enjoy killing wild animals? What is the symbolic meaning of this hunt for Clare? pp. 114, 115,

14 Clare’s motivation She does not enjoy hunting (e.g. experience of eating goat and roasted birds); Wanting to eat the pig’s testicles and penis; Kitty, Kitty Hart, Anne Frank, Doreen Paxton Joshua and Ben’s hunting for a pig.

15 Clare and Zoe What are the differences between Zoe and Clare? How are they similar to or different from Antoinette and Tia? Zoe: calls Clare “town gal” class difference is afraid of being thought of as “Guinea warrior, not gal pickney.” ( )  gender limitation Clare split; “limited” (119); recognize her “selfishness”; her lack of understanding of property and ownership (121)—Clare’s alienation from the native code; unconscious of her own class privilege

16 Zoe & Clare (2):bathing scene
What is the significance of the bathing scene ( , 124) in the episode? Is the relation between the two girls lesbian? Why is Clare so afraid of being seen by the cane-cutter? Why does Cliff follows it with a narration of “battyman” in Ch. 16? How does the family describe the “battyman” Robert ( )? What has happened to him? What is the connection of Robert’s story with the relationship between Clare and Zoe? What divides Clare and Zoe?

17 Zoe & Clare (2):bathing scene
Communication & Self-definition p. 120; 124 Robert and the American negro // Clare and Zoe  transgression of racial boundaries p. 127

18 Clare’s Split Racial Identities
Boy’s teaching of “race and color and lightening” (127) Kitty’s influences: Kitty’s cherish of darkness ( )—”keep darkness locked inside” (129)—melancholic Kitty’s dream of setting up a local school ( )--her distrust of British education and love of black culture--“Daffodils” vs the Maroon Girl (129) Kitty’s preference for the darker daughter Jennie (129) and Clare’s sense of alienation from the mother (128) Clare’s love for Zoe (131) Thinks Clare likes passing (129)

19 Languages--English and Patois
What kind of language does Zoe use? What is the significance of different languages in the novel? (e.g. Clare to Zoe, to the cane-cutter, and to Ms. Mattie) (122, 134).

20 Olive Senior: an Embodiment of Conflicts
The daughter of peasant farmers, she grew up, after four, with well-off relatives whose lifestyle was the opposite of what she had known as a child.  tension between two different households, between rural and urban settings  “two Jamaicas”; (source: ) 

21 “Bright Thursdays”--Genealogy
Dolphie Watson Miss Christie Mina Bertram Myrtle Johnstone (white U.S.) (brown) (dark) Laura 2 sons (2 fathers) (Bertram’s Mistake; Bertram’s stray shot) A child’s perspective—a gradual process of alienation

22 “Bright Thursdays”--Questions
Why is Laura’s story not like ours visits of our grandparents? If we divide up the story into the beginning, middle and end, where is the “middle” part in which the action starts? Why does the story have a long introduction? What does the intro. show about Laura? Why does she feel alienated from her siblings? What is she afraid of? What is the significance of the photographs, mirror, the mountains vs. the wide open space, and the clouds? What does the ending mean?

23 Color System in the Caribbean Society
Ms. Christie: “Dying to raise their color all of them” (199) The color triangle: white brown dark

24 “Bright Thursday”: intro.
Intro. Pp Myrtle as a single mother Myrtle’s view of Laura’s father (p) Myrtle’s dream (197-98; 200) Myrtle vs. Ms. Christie (pp ;) Laura in the two households at her mother’s: p. 200 at Ms. Christie’s: p. 195; 196;

25 Contrasts between the two households
Mountains vs. hills pp. 203 – 204  sense of insecurity

26 Space and its Symbolic Meanings
Spatial imagery Laura’s sense of displacement transported from mother’s house to father’s out of place or no space (photos on the bureau195) Laura’s sense of inferiority enclosed and protected(mother’s house in the mountains, hemmed in 203); empty space (the dinning table 196; father’s house ) fear of open space ( blue bowl ) Fear of bright Thursday (the bus) Need protection and safety from the earth (digging potatoes 207)

27 Middle part The father –present only as a photo 208; few fathers around dreaming about being rescued by her father; will bring nothing but bright Thursdays (208)

28 Ending: final revelation and initiation
Color hierarchy p. 210 A story of disillusionment—the breaking up of her hope and dreams—“bloody bastard” (211) Turned into an orphan

29 References Cliff, Michelle. "Clare Savage as a Corssroads Character." Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. Ed. Selwyn R. Cudjoe. Wellesley, MA: Calaloux, Michelle Cliff

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