Trasgenerational Trauma & Postcolonial Studies (Sally)

Key Words

  • Transgenerational Trauma
  • Trauma Theory
  • Postcolonial Studies

Secondary Sources

  • Caruth, Cathy. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1995.
  • Atkinson, Meera. The poetics of Transgenerational Trauma. Bloomsbury Academic,
  • “Postcolonial Trauma Novels.” Studies in the Novel, 40. No. 1-2, 2008.
  • Hsiao, Li-Chun. “The Corruption of Slaves into Tyrants’: Toussaint, Haiti, and the Writing of Postcolonial Trauma.” Journal of Midwest Modern Language Association, 41, no. 1, 2008.
  • Upstone, Sara. “’Same Old, Same Old’: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 43, no. 3, 2007, pp. 336-349.

Year long Journal Survey

  • Journal of Postcolonial Writing

The two primary texts I may focus my thesis on are The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I am drawn to The Dew Breaker for it’s rich and layered narrative which lends itself to both Postcolonial theory and Trauma theory. The novel is a collection of 9 short stories which narrates different Haitian characters’ experiences with brutality and cultural loss. Additionally, I am interested in Danticat’s use of multiple short stories to create a narrative about postcolonial trauma. I think the fragmentation of the narrative works on a meta level in conjunction with Trauma theory and the diaspora she explores in her writing. Secondly, I am drawn to White Teeth because of its complex narration of postcolonial England and the generational effects of colonialism. I am not yet certain how applicable Trauma theory will be to this novel, but I believe it would be an interesting undertaking to explore the multiple forms of trauma present. Further, there are many pieces of the novel which I still do not fully grasp through I have read it many times. I believe that literature which resists your analysis at first often creates the most interesting research process and textual analysis. I also adore Smith’s writing style and the intrusive omniscient narrator she uses throughout the novel. Overall, I think it would be a pleasure to revisit White Teeth as a capstone to my academic career, though I worry it will present many challenges along the way.

As for my research, I will begin by anchoring my understanding of Trauma theory in Cathy Caruth’s foundational book Trauma: Explorations in Memory. This book will allow me to have a basic understanding of the general theory and language which surrounds this subject matter with which I have little prior experience. I will then deepen my understanding of Postcolonial Studies by conducting a year long survey of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. I will then extend my understanding of Trauma theory to the subgenre of transgenerational trauma through Meera Atkinson’s book The poetics of Transgenerational Trauma.  In conjunction with this narrowing I will read the special edition of the journal Studies in the Novel titled “Postcolonial Trauma Novels”. This journal will help build my understanding of Trauma theory in conjunction with Postcolonial theory. Lastly, I will read two topic specific articles which explore the Island nation of Haiti and the novel White Teeth through the Postcolonial lens. These articles will give me insight into which primary text I would like to choose based on how engaging I find the scholarship surrounding their specific topics. In total I have structured my reading list to build off of and deepen my understanding of the very broad fields I am interested in. I hope that this process will bring me clarity as to what primary text I want to focus on while also building my foundational knowledge on this kind of scholarship.


BP 3