Dissertation Project

The Literature of Post-Katrina New Orleans and Post-Earthquake Haiti

My dissertation examines the effect that large-scale displacement has on identity by analyzing the literature that arose in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This study will examine literature that has been written after these natural disasters in an effort to gain insight into the way that survivors work to reconfigure their own identities. Presently there is a gap in scholarship; much has been written and said about both of these tragedies, but very little of it is in the words of the survivors themselves. Because of this, survivors may not recognize themselves in the cultural memories and discourses analyzing the causes and effects of these disasters. My project intervenes by examining how survivors are working to remake their identities (both personal and cultural) through fiction.

Conference Presentations

“this country done left us for dead”: Hurricane Katrina, Cultural Memory, and the Power of Literary Resistance (Accepted)

ICSLAC (Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture)
May 3-4, 2019 | Carleton University

Abstract: In my paper, I look at a number of studies examining the reporting on Hurricane Katrina and its survivors before turning to literary incursions that seek to subvert the racist, biased depictions of the event presented by mainstream media and other sources. Depictions of the victims and survivors of Katrina contributed to formations of inaccurate and racially biased cultural memories, as well as to a potential increase in fatalities as a result of shifting the governmental response from aid to security. Works written immediately after the disaster, including Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler, serve as literary resistance to the nascent formation of a racist cultural memory of Katrina.

“What kind of demon”: Intersections of Cultural Memories in Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women

ACCUTE (Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English)
May 26-29, 2018 | University of Regina

AbstractMy paper explores the interplay between distinct cultural memories in Marlon James’s 2009 The Book of Night Women. James preserves the uniqueness of the suffering of his novel’s West Indian slaves, but also draws attention to sites of overlap between cultural memories of transatlantic slavery and the Jewish diaspora. The distinction between these cultural memories is carefully maintained, but textual references and a proliferation of figures and places from Jewish mythology place them in conversation. I focus on two such facets of James’s text: the name of the protagonist, Lilith, and the title of the novel’s final section, Gehenna.

“A patchwork of negro bones”: Specificity and Relationality in Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women

CCLA (Canadian Comparative Literature Association)
May 26-29, 2018 | University of Regina

Abstract: In Absolutely Postcolonial (2001), Peter Hallward critiques the “singularising” nature of postcolonial studies, which “absorbs or undermines” the sites of difference it purports to investigate (2). He emphasizes the need to maintain “A specific rather than singular mode of individuation” based on relationality (4). Augmented by the non-competitive model of memory studies championed by Michael Rothberg in Multidirectional Memory (2009), I argue for an approach to diversity in literary studies which maintains the uniqueness of lived experience while also allowing for connections to be forged across cultural and national boundaries. To this end, I analyze Marlon James’s 2009 The Book of Night Women as emblematic of this approach.

Vultures, Pygmies, and Fleas: Emotional Performativity and Alterity in John Dryden’s All for Love

CSECS (Canadian Society for Eighteenth Century Studies)
October 18-22, 2018 | Toronto, Ontario

Abstract: Mypaper interrogates alterity – both cultural and gendered – in John Dryden’s 1677 All for Love. Sara Ahmed’s The Cultural Politics of Emotion provides a critical framework with which to read the interactions between the bodies in Dryden’s play as performances of emotional orientation. Close textual analysis of the play reveals that All for Love repeatedly privileges hard, masculine bodies over those that are presented as soft or effeminate. As Ahmed has demonstrated, this gender hierarchy is also cultural, so that the risk associated with softness is the ease with which it can be penetrated or shaped by the culturally other. These fears of alterity are mirrored by the rigid structure of the play, its preface, and the casting choices of early productions. I conclude that Dryden’s play is didactic; not only does the action of All for Love sanction a hard emotional orientation, but it instructs its audience to fear those that are perceived as effeminate or culturally other.

Other Presentations

‘Une de nos îles me rendit’: Eco-Trends in the Traditional Literary Canons of Haiti and Louisiana

STP (Special Topics Presentation)
April 30, 2018 | Queen’s University

Abstract: My presentation offers a comparative look at the role of the environment in the traditional literary canons of Haiti and Louisiana. In my reading and research I looked to identify trends in the presentation or depiction of the environment, animals, nature, weather, and the natural world. I employ the term trend deliberately. The etymology of the term comes from the bend or lean of a stream or other body of water, so there is that nice ecological connection there. But beyond that, I want to be careful to avoid generalizing two quite diverse canons of texts, so instead of speaking to tropes, symbols, or recurring metaphors, I instead want to make it clear that I am looking at the bend or lean of these significations, the same way that one would talk about the trend of a stream or current. And, as with the lean of a stream, simply because I have identified this trend does not mean that it necessarily has always or will always lean in that direction, and towards the end of my presentation I will talk about a couple of texts that are starting to shift this dominant trend.

To read more about my research background and interests you can view my online CV.