Ghosts of Chances for Redemption via Abjection in Wilson Harris's Palace of the Peacock and Others

Show full item record

Title: Ghosts of Chances for Redemption via Abjection in Wilson Harris's Palace of the Peacock and Others
Author: Powell, Ethel Anne
Advisors: Deborah Wyrick, Committee Chair
Michael Grimwood, Committee Member
John Morillo, Committee Member
Abstract: This thesis explores, in three works of literature, possibilities for redemption via abjection. Julia Kristeva's semanalysis is the primary theoretical tool with which Aphra Behn's Oroonoko (1688) is examined as a nascent work in Caribbean literature. Next, and central to this thesis, the Guyanese Wilson Harris's The Palace of the Peacock (1960) is discussed within Kristevan context and within Caribbeanist literary critical context. Mariella, a central and fluid character in Palace, acts as a semiotic agent of destruction and of abjectly sublime redemption for Donne and his crew of river boatmen in pursuit of Other ethnically mixed peoples in Guyana's interior. Donne's moment of epiphany, wherein he comes to understand how inhumanely he has treated Others, is followed by his 'second' death and rebirth in a celestial palace (along with the rest of the crew), marking his and their transformation from abject slavers to abjectly sublime and redeemed beings. The semiotic linguistic characteristics of Palace are investigated: while written in the style of Magical Realism, Palace contains lexical and dialectal features stemming from African and Amerindian influences. Flannery O'Connor's 'Revelation' (1965) is the final work examined. Via legacies of plantation slavery and ensuing discrimination against freed African-Americans, many works of Southern U.S. literature contain qualities of postcolonial literatures, particularly the element of abject Otherness. In 'Revelation' Mrs. Ruby Turpin's ideas about abject Others are transformed, as she is transformed from an abject avatar of white Southern racism and classism, into an abjectly sublime person who receives a 'revelation' of her wrongs righted in a celestial march of all human beings. Her 'revelation' is markedly similar to Donne's in Palace, both in what she sees and in the language employed to describe what is revealed to her. In Palace and in 'Revelation,' characters are redeemed by their limitations, by recognition of their abjections, and thus from these abject restrictions. Although Behn's narrator aborts her encounter with an Other, she comes very close to actualizing abject sublimity as is evinced in a fractured and digressive narrative, indicative of the narrator's conflicted psyche. At least she is conflicted about New World colonial enterprises and their institutions of brutal enslavement. Rather than abjure abject Otherness, perhaps readers—students of life and of literature—would embrace abjection, the eschewed Otherness within, as a critical agent for and means to the sublime.
Date: 2005-06-27
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

Files in this item

Files Size Format View
etd.pdf 702.9Kb PDF View/Open

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show full item record