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Dressing Up and the Art of Jamaica Kincaid
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
2012 (English)Licentiate thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Whether her work is classified as fiction, biography, garden writing, or sketch, almost all ofJamaica Kincaid’s writing invokes the genre of autobiography. At the same time, she undercutsand complicates autobiographical readings of her work. Most critics have viewed Kincaid’sdisruption of autobiographical conventions as a response to personal or political trauma,but this thesis argues that her artistic investment in her engagement with the autobiographicalhas not yet been sufficiently addressed. The ambiguous invocation of autobiography,which Kincaid sustains and develops over time, works as a strategy for resistingdefinition and categorization – especially as based on race, gender, or nationality – and forasserting her individuality and uniqueness as an artist. Her manipulations of genre conventionsallow her to foreground her artistic methods and assume authority for her narratives, andalso to create a unique artistic persona.

This thesis thus analyzes Kincaid’s intricate methods for dressing up the autobiographical,a strategy which both accentuates the autobiographical elements of her work and obscuresthem. The focus is on her use of references to the world outside the text, and to names, both ofwhich have the potential to signal autobiography. This thesis discusses the trends over time inKincaid’s manipulation of these traditional markers of autobiography in her early New Yorkercolumns, “Antigua Crossings,” At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiographyof My Mother, My Brother, My Garden (book):, Mr Potter, and Among Flowers.

The ambiguous effect of these methods is greatly amplified when Kincaid’s texts link toeach other intertextually, as well as paratextually to sources such as interviews. Highlightingthe importance of these links, this study differentiates between uncognizant and cognizantreadings of Kincaid’s work. Cognizant readings – informed by intertextual and paratextuallinks and by necessity highly attentive – allow for a fuller appreciation of Kincaid’s artisticmethods. In addition to functioning as a strategy for resisting categorization, Kincaid’s engagementwith the autobiographical contributes to affect and nuance the view of the subject,the artist’s authority vis-à-vis her writing, and readings of texts. She constantly finds newways to dress up the autobiographical, and installments from her forthcoming novel indicatethat her innovation continues.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala universitet, 2012. , 139 p.
Keyword [en]
Jamaica Kincaid, Art, Autobiography, Resistance to Categorization, Dressing Up, Cognizant Readings, Intertexts, Paratexts
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-171283OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-171283DiVA: diva2:510413
Available from: 2012-03-19 Created: 2012-03-16 Last updated: 2012-03-19Bibliographically approved

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