Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
This thesis is a comparative analysis of six of Michelle Cliffs short stories where I discuss the aspects of class, race, and self-alienation present in her work. In formulating and gathering the appropriate research for this project, I discovered that like most short fiction, Cliffs has not received criticism equal in comparison to her full-length novels. Therefore, the aim of this project is to present an in-depth critique of Cliffs short fiction using black feminist, post-colonial, and queer theory approaches to produce close readings her work to reaffirm her importance as a contemporary Caribbean author.
Chapter One juxtaposes the theme of social hierarchy as it relates to the forbidden friendship between the protagonist who is visiting Jamaica, and the child-servant of the aunt who the narrator is staying with. “Monster” and “Columba” are paired together because they are set in Jamaica and narrated by young female protagonists where both works depict a fictional portrayal of the stratification of Jamaican society. The dialogue between her characters is spoken in either Jamaican patois or in Standard English and the juxtaposition of the two facilitates cultural critiques using post-colonial and Caribbean literary theories to discuss the division inherent in class structure.
Chapter Two analyzes the short stories “Ecce Homo” and “A Woman Who Plays the Trumpet is Deported.” This chapter serves as Cliffs depiction of the Holocaust to focus on the erasure of the gay and black experiences in documented accounts of history. Cliffs fiction addresses concerns that specifically the gay, lesbian, and black women’s experiences are either homogenized or negated in relation to the overall history of oppressed groups. By incorporating critical theory to my comparative analysis, I intend to shoe how the critic’s evaluation coincides with Cliffs characterization of her protagonist’s experiences during the Holocaust. “A Woman Who Plays Trumpet is Deported” is narrated from the perspective of famed black American jazz musician Valaida Snow whose life story has been negated in the history of both the Holocaust, and the history of jazz. “Ecce Homo” traces the fictional narration of a black gay man living and working in Europe during World War II, who is captured and escapes from a Nazi concentration camp.
Chapter Three will investigate the pairing of “Transactions” and “Screen Memory” to examine the protagonists’ feelings of self-alienation through their romanticized perspectives of personal fulfillment. “Transactions” chronicles the desire of a white American salesman in Jamaica to find a child who he can call his own while “Screen Memory” contemplates childhood through the recollections of a racially mixed alcoholic actress who slips in and out of a dream-like state. This chapter provides a post- colonial and gendered reading of the texts analyzing the author’s rendering of a white Jamaican figure’s metaphoric colonization of a child and the conflict of racial and sexual passing by a woman plagued by alcoholism and mental illness.
Laster, Jennifer Nicole, "“Out of Many, One People” : A Comparative Analysis of Short Fiction by Michelle Cliff" (2009). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1189.