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Vienna Working Papers in Canadian Studies Vol. 3 (2019) 'Between the Specters': Caribbean Neo-slave Novels by Canadian Women

Zimmerman, Tegan

This paper suggests that Canadian women are rewriting the history and institution of slavery in the Caribbean. Even though scholarship highlighting and tracing the trajectory of the Caribbean historical novel is becoming more visible (Barker; Halloran; Kyiiripuo Kyoore; Rody), a focus on gender and women authors remains underrepresented. Women novelists are, however, largely taking on the burden of transmitting the slave past (e.g., Isabel Allende, Maryse Condé, Andrea Levy). Recognizing the contributions of women writers, this paper compares two innovative Canadian novels which re-vision slavery by putting women’s lives at the forefront: Dionne Brand’s At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999) and Jenny Jaeckel’s House of Rougeaux (2018). Both novels provide portraits of nineteenth-century plantation life, Trinidad and Martinique respectively, as well as life in the contemporary Canadian diaspora. Emphasizing the need for decolonization, these Canadian novels contest master narratives, historical erasures, silences, violence, and political exclusion both in the past and in the present, by focusing on female genealogies, voices, and figures. Women’s neo-slave historical novels, like the ones above, thus offer a powerful counter narrative to official History (both colonial and postcolonial) and to the literary canon.

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