115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Third Spaces in Haitian Women Writer's Novels

Joelle Vitiello, Macalester College

This presentation examines the different kinds of "third spaces" that Haitian women writers create to translate narratives of coping with extreme violence, focusing on a few novels. I examine how they translate intersticial ambiguous moments, slippages, supernatural, and ghost spaces.


Haitian women writers often depict acts of violence, whether sexual, political, or psychological. They also often include in their novels narratives of coping with that violence. What I propose to examine in this short presentation cannot do justice to all dimensions of the techniques used by Haitian women writers to create new spaces. For instance, in the first novella of her now famous trilogy, Amour, Colère, Folie (1968), Marie Vieux Chauvet creates an imagined space where her main protagonist can entertain an avatar of a relationship with a doll representing the object of her desire, or with other substitutes who may or may not exist. More recently, Kettly Mars explored the complexities of mental spaces that allow for survival in times of extreme violence. In Les saisons sauvages (2010), for instance, she explores the micro-rationalizations and mental splitting that occur when her protagonists use each other, one, a man of power who uses the spouse of one of his victims to terrorize and seduce her, and the spouse of a political prisoner using her sexual power to free her husband yet exploring uncharted ambivalent mental spaces. In Under the Bone (1994), by Anne-Christine d'Adesky, the voices of the dead narrate part of the story, being but one of many voices, expressed in different literary genres, to bring to the attention of the reader the multiple fragments of devastation the brutal regime of the Duvaliers left behind. Finally, in her 2016 novel, L'écho de leurs voix, Jan J. Dominique explores how the silences of the victims and perpetrators create "ghost spaces" in second and third generations in the feminine Haitian diaspora of Montréal. The goal of this presentation is to theorize the notion of "third space" (or third dimensional space) through the study of a few examples post-1986 Haitian narratives.