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Title: Intergenerational autobiography, hitorical narrative and trauma
Authors: Gill, Rebecca Claire.
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Focusing on works published in the late twentieth century by three contemporary postcolonial women writers, Sindiwe Magona, Sally Morgan and Janet Campbell Hale, this thesis explores their use of a hybrid generic form I term ‘intergenerational autobiography’. Originating from South Africa, Australia and North America respectively, each text engages with the legacy of colonialism in a different settler society. The authors interweave personal narratives with the life stories of mothers and grandmothers, and engage with the perspectives of future generations, incorporating familial subjectivities within autobiography in response to traumatic colonial pasts. Despite the widely disparate political and cultural contexts, detailed comparisons demonstrate how attacks on indigenous families function as key mechanisms of colonial control and oppression. Attention to the specificity of traumatic experience in each narrative necessitates a re-examination of models of trauma in non-Western contexts. Magona explores both everyday violence in apartheid South Africa, and the communal and generational impacts of individual ‘spectacular’ traumatic events. Morgan’s work foregrounds the vital collaborative role of the listener in trauma testimony, and highlights the significance of silences or gaps in testimonies about the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children in Australia. Hale vividly demonstrates the intergenerational transmission of trauma through maternal abuse in her Native American family, and throws into question the rebuilding of familial relationships as a discourse of healing. Each text is situated in relation to the historical narratives produced by truth and reconciliation commissions and other official testimony-gathering projects, exploring the freedom that intergenerational autobiography offers to address a broader spectrum of cross-generational experiences than is possible under the restrictive political objectives and mandates of TRCs. This literary form enables Magona, Morgan and Hale to produce politically nuanced narratives of the colonial past, accessing alternatives to ‘mainstream’ historical narratives through a generational approach that highlights the continuing traumatic impact of both spectacular and insidious forms of colonial violence.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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