Enacting History: Transnational Literary Historiography in the Neoliberal Age

2017-10-22T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Stephanie T. Reich
This dissertation argues for transnational literary historiography, a new genre of literature that develops out of postcolonial literature in the mid-1980s. This new genre emerges following the significant shifts in global capitalism toward neoliberal economic policies that occurred in the latter part of the twentieth century, resulting in what we today call globalization. Works of transnational literary historiography critically examine how history has been written as well as artfully rewrite history in relationship to the lives of the actors in their narratives, blurring the lines between fictional and nonfictional literary genres. In this project I focus on texts that move between the US and Latin America and the Caribbean, respectively. I begin by tracing the emergence of transnational literary historiography through a study of Jamaica Kincaid’s body of work. I then examine three subgenres of transnational literary historiography—the fictional travelogue, transnational literary historiographic memoir, and transnational historiographic metafiction—via readings of Michelle Cliff’s No Telephone to Heaven; Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying; Sandra Cisneros’s Caramelo; and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. While these subgenres each feature uniquely crafted historical narratives, they share a number of primary genre conventions, including polyvocal narration, the incorporation of autobiographical elements from the authors’ lives into the narratives, a focus on the interconnectedness of the actors’ personal experiences and larger historical situations, and a constellated narrative style that connects seemingly disparate historical moments, often reaching back to the origins of global capitalism in the long fifteenth century. Ultimately I argue that these conventions constitute a new genre of literature—separate from the postcolonial, transnational, and postmodern genres in which these texts are generally categorized—that is a politicized aesthetic response to neoliberalism.