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Trauma in African American literature.
In this thesis, "Trauma Theory and African American Pain", I examine characteristics and categorizations of African American trauma through the literature of African American writers. The importance of examining this literature with African American trauma is to keep the truth in writing so that we never forget those atrocities committed by the dominant...
In this thesis, "Trauma Theory and African American Pain", I examine characteristics and categorizations of African American trauma through the literature of African American writers. The importance of examining this literature with African American trauma is to keep the truth in writing so that we never forget those atrocities committed by the dominant white society against African Americans. The narratives that I examine allow the readers to see the trauma and to see the effects of that trauma over the generations. While this work focuses more clearly on the writers of post reconstruction America, I also examine the work of Oladah Equiano in order to reveal to the reader the trauma of the African slave and the African American slave during their capture, transport, and ultimate enslavement in the colonies. The importance of such examination clarifies that the trauma affected not only the literature, both past and present of African American people, but also that the trauma affected the fates of many of the African American people, lasting long after emancipation, providing a generational trauma that exists even today. In addition, through this examination, we are provided an accurate narrative---this collective truth differs from many of the historic accountings offered through the dominant society's accounting---reminding us of the importance of literature and the truth that lies within the narratives. In researching African American literature, I find that there are four categories of trauma that inspired some writers to use these traumas as motifs and/or themes in their writings. These categories are separation from the familiar, linguistic isolation, loss of identity, and physical and mental torture, and while these are not exhaustive accounts of every trauma, they offer boundaries for the types of trauma that I found to exist in the literature that I surveyed. In examining the first category, I consider the slaves' separation from their country as well as the separation from their families and friends both occurring in Africa and America. My analysis of the linguistic isolation includes both the foreign language of English into which the African slaved were forcibly submerged and their forced linguistic acquisition of English, as well as the struggles of the African American to gain literacy. My analysis of the loss of identity addresses the loss of subjectivity of the African slave and the African American slave the emancipated American, and those who struggled for equal rights; I examine the effects of this loss on African American Culture. And finally, I examine the trauma of torture, which I break into three subcategories: sexual, mutilation and death, and emotional. In addition to the categories of trauma, there are three characteristics of some of the African American literature that I examine: Re-visitation literature, departure literature, and lynching language. The re-visitation literature, meaning the pain is revisited in the form of narratives either biographical or fictional, occurs in an actual representation of the trauma. Departure literature occurs when the writer is only allowed to write his narrative in the safety of another area; for instance, leaving a hostile environment in order to freely creates away from their oppressors. Lynching language is a trope that describes the acts of lynching either symbolically or literally. Historically, I examine American interests in forcing the African to this country by comparing, although briefly, the appeal for using slaves versus white indentured servants or Native Americans as slaves. Moreover, I identify why "othering" the slave became such an automatic response...
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