Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Lorraine York


This thesis is a comparative study of four Africaribbean women's poetry: Marlene Nourbese Philip, Claire Harris, Lorna Goodison, Cynthia James. It is also a study of what it means to be a minority writer who happens to be female and Black in Canada. I look at how various factors affect the way these poets use language to develop an Africaribbean/Canadian feminist rhetoric of recovery, not only for themselves as individuals, but also for Africaribbean group healing and growth. The thesis is divided into five chapters and a tentative conclusion. In Chapter One, I address the various theoretical locations or un-locations and paradigms of Caribbean literary and critical history in order to contextualize my reading of the work of these poets. I discuss the salient issues of silence, voice, marginality, language, and audience. Chapter Two takes me through an exploration of the evolution of voice in Marlene Nourbese Philip's poetry within antagonistic yet receptive Canadian literaryscape. I explore her work through theories and practices of decontructing and deterritorializing the imperial father tongue--English--in search of a lost mother tongue. Claire Harris developments through high modernist, feminist/postcolonial territories become the framework for my examination of her poetry. But this examination is also done within the background of prairie culture and Canadian political of multiculturalism. Her treatment of Africaribbean femininity, gender relations, race, mother-daughter relations through a collage of linguistic paraphenalia and literary models is traced and explained. In Chapter Four, I compare the politics of cultural location that produce the discourse of contestation in both Philip and Harris with Lorna Goodison's exploration of Africaribbean culture, and religions from her Jamaican location. I opined that Goodison unlike Philip and Harris to some extent is not very concerned with contesting any dominant group for space and audience, but searching for an ideology of healing the wounded souls of her people. In Chapter Five, I study Cynthia James's poetic of healing in a Trinbagonian society. My central concern here is how James makes use of innovative collages of Trinbagonian traditional belief systems, cultural musical productions, and religious and literary traditions to get her people to move from moaning ground to heartease. I arrive finally at a tentative conclusion which stresses a transnational, inter- and intra-theoretical, paralinguistic, and multicultural reading of any of these poets.

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