Research

Terese Osborne, English

Advisor: Renée Larrier, French

This project approaches Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat’s book Breath, Eyes, Memory with three questions: how is the trauma of sexual assault addressed in the works? Why is it so particularly horrifying? And how does Danticat use language to help her characters heal from such trauma? After providing a brief background of the history of sexual assault in Haiti, particularly its use as a political tool during the Duvalier regime, I address the first two questions by using psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection from Power of Horrorto argue how, in Breath, Eyes, Memory, the root of the damage and horror of sexual assault is the abjection of main character Sophie and her mother Martine’s perception of themselves as well as the abjection of the mother-daughter relationship. To address the second question, I argue that Danticat’s use of ecological metaphor in Breath, Eyes, Memory allows both Sophie and Martine to regain empowerment due to the connections made between nature and their identities. I additionally use Danticat’s book Krik? Krak! to highlight the significance of the mother-daughter relationship and the use of ecological metaphor.