Yearning for freedom: Afro-descendant women writers at the edge of transatlantic slavery
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Universidad de Granada
DepartamentoUniversidad de Granada.; Universidad de Granada. Programa de Doctorado en: Estudios de las Mujeres, Discursos y Prácticas de Género
Women’s writingColonial and de-colonial literatureTransatlantic slave tradeSlave narrativeFemale slave narrativeFeminist literary criticismGender studies
Morabito, V. Yearning for freedom: Afro-descendant women writers at the edge of transatlantic slavery. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2019. [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/56483]
SponsorshipTesis Univ. Granada.
The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to reconsider nineteenth century European literature through the study of non-canonical texts written by Afro-descendant women during the transatlantic slavery, in English, Spanish and Portuguese. It advances the thesis that the writings of the “minor subjects” in modern Europe put forth an innovative idea of freedom, which can help us to reconsider not only our understanding of gender identities but also our notion of Europe. The literary texts selected for this study are the following: the slave narrative written by Mary Prince, a former slave from the British colonies in the Caribbean and entitled The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave Related by Herself (1831); a collection of Cuban poems written by Maria Cristina Fragas (Cristina Ayala), Ofrendas Mayabequinas (1926); and Ursula (1859), a novel by Maria Firmina dos Reis, a woman of African descent born in the Portuguese colony of Brazil. These works are useful examples in order to re-examine European identity in the light of the important historical event of the transatlantic slave trade, given the role that slavery and colonialism played not only as historical facts but also as ideologies. The study hereafter presented is structured in five chapters, with an introduction and a concluding section. The introduction draws a general outline of the dissertation. In the first chapter, the topic of the research and its rationale are discussed, explaining the hypothesis and the objectives of the work and presenting a review of the existing literature on the topic. In particular, I establish the framework for the methodology of the research, locating the idea of desire (Eros), of women’s literature, of post-colonial and de-colonial literature and the category of gender. The second chapter examines the way in which the historical and cultural background of the nineteenth century influenced my corpus of primary texts. Subsequently, in the following three chapters, I examine each work individually: The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave Related by Herself in the third chapter; Ofrendas Mayabequinas in the fourth; and Ursula in the fifth. Finally, the conclusion is devoted to the interpretation and comparison of the studied texts. The re-discovery and research of minor voices in European literature and, in particular, of women and slaves, goes hand in hand with the necessity for a new Europe that must rethink the notions of otherness and freedom as a way to reframe its human and political relationships.