Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

Gaëtan Brulotte, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Christine Probes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christine Probes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heike Scharm, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Dieme, Ph.D.

Keywords

ethnic, female, identity, interracial, love

Abstract

This Master's Thesis examines what happens when African and Caribbean characters in France or in their own country meet the Other in Francophone literature. How do interracial relationships construct/deconstruct the concept of an intertwined identity? This comparative project explores three 20th century Francophone women writers from Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the West Indies in order to show how their novels construct or deconstruct the identities of migrated female characters through their interracial erotic and amorous relationships. Starting with Plato's Banquet which describes the origin of love as a splitting of identity and the quest of love as a quest to make that identity whole again, I problematize that notion through the intercultural encounters between the female main character and the white male in a postcolonial context. The study focuses on how the Other influences the female character and intervenes in the construction of the self, and looks at otherness as both an exterior force (the lover, the physical other) and an interior force (recognizing part of the self as other). It also explores how love and desire act as filters and motivators that influence the perception of the other and the self. My hypothesis is the following: the "ethnic woman" turns her foreigner status from a fragile one into one of strength and uses the Other for her integration into the Western society. Through otherness, she grasps a better understanding of the Other but also of herself. That encounter in all three novels pushes the ethnic female to return to her roots. Identities are not just hybrid but rather in a constant process of construction, a shift in self-construction in the globalized contemporary world. The female characters reflect the tendency to rethink not only what this new identity is but also the process of identity construction itself. By studying how women authors write on race and interracial relationships, this thesis offers a new understanding of the relation between love and identity and the female in Postcolonial Studies. Through her romantic relationships with the white male, the female has ultimately the power to decide for herself, which includes deciding to leave the relationship and leave for the sake of her newly found identity.

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