Marcia Carlson

RESEARCH FIELD: Female Caribbean literature

Current research project: Transgenerational Trauma in Fiction of Contemporary Female Caribbean Writers

Having analyzed the role of particularly Haitian traumas as they impact the parent-child relationships in three Edwidge Danticat fictions, I examine the degree to which the same sorts of factors impact the characterization, narrative structures, and thematic elements of four other Caribbean-oriented women’s novels. Like Danticat, emigrated from Port-au-Prince to North America, Myriam Chancy explores some of the same political, social, and gender-oriented dilemmas affecting real twentieth-century Haitians through panoramas of characters and perspectives. These difficulties often stem from traumatic episodes in Haitian history, such as slavery, French colonialism, US occupation, Dominican oppression, and dictatorships.

Three other female American writers with roots in the Dominican Republic deal with the same issues: Loida Maritza Perez, Nelly Rosario, and Angie Cruz have all produced similar narratives. Like their Haitian counterparts, they struggle to particularize the conflicts of their characters in order to adequately honor actual and inspirational forebears. All of the writers, despite and often because of conflicts within their communities (which include Haitian-Dominican tensions), seem intent on promoting deeper understanding of their cultures.

I am interested in probing the fictions of these writers to ascertain patterns in their treatment of trauma and survival in narrative, as well as to theorize on the effect of these approaches on readers. In particular, I would like to shore up my background knowledge of trauma theory, especially regarding the role of narrative, the historical and cultural landscape of Hispaniola, and postcolonial literary criticism regarding the Caribbean.