Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Thaggert, Miriam

First Committee Member

Fox, Claire

Second Committee Member

Witt, Doris

Third Committee Member

Curtius, Anny

Fourth Committee Member

Sanders, Katrina


The purpose of this dissertation is to understand the mixed legacy of shame. I work through the interrelationship between productive shame and debilitating shame and a character’s journey through this spectrum. In my research, I define shame not in the pejorative, but rather I repurpose the term to show its beneficiality in reshaping Black female characters during the period of Black Arts and Power Movements in America and the Caribbean. Essentially, my dissertation will argue that although debilitative shame seems overwhelmingly negative for the female characters, gradually they come to reassess this shame as a positive asset that helps them reevaluate societal and nationalistic expectations associated with their Blackness. I seek to redefine the globalized multiple dimensions of shame that Black authors confront throughout their novels because shame involves an often painful, sudden awareness of the self and trauma previously endured.

Thus, the fluidity of Black transnational experiences frame my interrogation of the impact of colonialism and post-colonialism on the cultural history and collective shame of Afro-diasporic descended characters in Morrison’s Tar Baby (1981), Kincaid’s Annie John (1985), Cliff’s No Telephone to Heaven (1987), and Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994). My project complicates mobility by dissecting the disconnections that arise from separation from homelands, family, and cultural familiarity. I analyze the four novels through an ordered methodology of migration, disruption, discontinuity, and the renaming debilitative shame as a positive asset. This methodology informs my argument on the middle ground and Black female characters occupying multiple identities in their movement through different nation-states and empires.


vii, 155 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 147-155).


Copyright © 2019 Akia Jackson