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Title page for ETD etd-05122014-174337

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Maddox IV, John Thomas
URN etd-05122014-174337
Title Dramas of Memory: Slavery and African Oral Traditions in the Historical Novels of Manuel Zapata Olivella and Ana Maria Gonçalves
Degree PhD
Department Spanish and Portuguese
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Earl E. Fitz Committee Co-Chair
William Luis Committee Co-Chair
Benigno Trigo Committee Member
Emanuelle K.F. Oliveira-Monte Committee Member
Jane Landers Committee Member
  • Manuel Zapata Olivella
  • Ana Maria Gonçalves
  • African Diaspora
  • slavery
  • Post-Boom
  • orality
Date of Defense 2014-05-05
Availability unrestricted

“Dramas of Memory: Slavery and African Oral Traditions in the Historical Novels of Manuel Zapata Olivella and Ana Maria Gonçalves”

John Thomas Maddox IV

Dissertation under Professors Earl E. Fitz and William Luis

For the first time, a predominantly black group of novelists from throughout the Americas is writing the history of New World slavery using oral and written sources of authority of Western, African, and African-American origin. The masterpieces of this emerging subgenre are Afro-Colombian Zapata Olivella’s Changó el gran putas (1983) and Afro-Brazilian Gonçalves’s Um defeito de cor (2006). In Changó, the New World is cursed with slavery and oppression, which they must fight off until everyone is free in the Americas. Defeito depicts Brazil’s independence and abolition from the perspective of an enslaved woman. To contextualize these 1,700 pages on the saga of slavery, my first chapter charts the intersecting literary histories of the Latin American Literary Boom’s end in 1971 and the increasing self-representation of blacks in Latin American novels, drawing from oral sources. Chapter 2 troubles the binary of oral and written literatures by arguing that historical fiction is a written version of tragedy, a genre well-suited to the history of slavery. Chapter 3 shows that Zapata Olivella developed a similar yet more extensive “stage” for the African Diaspora ten years before the more famous Paul Gilroy. Unlike Gilroy, Gonçalves portrays the constant communication between Africa and Brazil, the Americas’ largest slave-based nation. Chapter 4 turns inward to tragedy’s role in therapy. I interpret images and absences of “Mother Africa” in these texts as a traumatic origin for the Americas. Chapter 5 argues that these novels are part of a greater subgenre that is exemplified by three recent works: Chilean-American Isabel Allende’s The Island beneath the Sea (2009), which tells the Haitian Revolution from an enslaved mother’s point of view; Brazilian Nei Lopes’s Oiobomé (2010), an Amazonian Afro-Indigenous utopia that begins in the eighteenth century; and Nuyorican Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa’s Daughters of the Stone (2009), a matriarchal history of slavery and race in Puerto Rico. I attempt specific periodization of “Post-Boom” literature, help update the canon, and elaborate on the intersections of history, literature, and theory regarding the African Diaspora.

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