Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Lindsey Tucker

Second Committee Member

David Luis-Brown

Third Committee Member

Joseph Alkana

Fourth Committee Member

Ifeoma Nwankwo


This project examines the ways in which several texts written in the late twentieth century by African American and Caribbean writers appropriate history and witness trauma. I read the representational practices of Toni Morrison, Ernest Gaines, Paule Marshall, and Fred D'Aguiar as they offer distinct approaches to history and the resulting effects such reconstituted, discovered, or, in some cases, imagined histories can have on the affirmation of the self as a subject. I draw my theoretical framework from the spaces of intersection between diaspora and postcolonial theories, enabling me to explore the values of the African diaspora cross-culturally as manifested in the representational practices of these writers. This study creates an opening into recent discourses of the African diaspora by comparing texts in which the effects of history rooted in diaspora are explored, both in how this history cripples with the impact of trauma and how it empowers dynamic self-actualization and the resistance of the status quo. I argue that in these novels, challenging hegemonic historical narratives and bearing witness to the past are necessary for overcoming the isolating and disempowering effects of trauma, while affirming diasporic consciousness enhances the role of communal belonging and cultural memory in the process of self-actualization.


Postcolonial; Atlantic Studies; African Diaspora; Transnational; Trauma Theory; Witness; Memory