Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Amy J. Elias

Committee Members

Mary E. Papke, Gichingiri J. Ndigirigi


In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva defines abjection as the seductive and destructive remainder of the process of entering the symbolic space of the father and leaving the pre-symbolic space of the mother, resulting in a desire to return to the jouissance of the pre-symbolic space. In this project, I read Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother as an attempt to link Xuela’s psychic abjection with the postcolonial identity. Xuela exists on the boundaries of the colonial dichotomy, embracing the space of the abject because she is haunted by her dead mother. She cannot return to her mother, so she inhabits the space of the abject, creating an abject lineage and symbolically writing the history of the Carib people. I use this novel as a stepping off point for a reading of Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban. Celia and Jorge are abjected as their bodies are tied to the nation; therefore, they produce abject children. Each of Celia’s children tries to return to the psychic, pre-symbolic space linked to the mother but cannot; therefore, they inhabit the space of the abject in a manner similar to how Xuela inhabits it, and their abjection is represented through their relationship to sugar. Only Pilar, as an artist, is able to move past abjection – the negative space of loss – to hybridity – the positive space of creation – to end the cycle. The significance of this reading of abjection in postcolonial literary studies is that these two postcolonial women’s texts both illustrate and attempt to resolve the problem of postcolonial female subjectivity, although to different degrees of success.

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