My conference paper is an investigation into the diasporic state conducted through an examination of the Abiku figure and other examples of ghostliness as indicators and expressions of abjection and fractured identity in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy, and the short story “Sacrament of Tears” from African Monsters. The first thing my paper aims to do is explore gothic identity issues. What kind of commentary on identity do ghost children, when scrutinized for themes such as doubling, abjection, isolation, monstrousness, and the uncanny, make? What could Abiku-hood reflect in terms of the cultural, racial, and national identity of individuals and groups? I hope to continue by connecting the Abiku to figurative and literal diaspora. To that end, the essay will work to uncover readings of diaspora that allow the state, in a geographical sense, to be applied to the internal workings of people and communities.
- Bennett, Tony. “Sacrament of Tears.” African Monsters. Vol. 2. Eds. Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas. Fox Spirit Books, 2015. Print.
- I’m attracted to this short story as a more straightforward Abiku story that highlights themes surrounding the figure. I feel that it could possibly be beneficial as an illustrator of ideas. It would have the least space in the paper.
- Oyeyemi, Helen. The Icarus Girl. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.
- I’m interested in Jessamy and her relationships with both people (as locations) and geographical places. My goal is to read and track the trajectory of said relationships in order to tie Jess’ various locations to the Abiku and diasporic state on multiple levels. Aside from her bond with TillyTilly, I’m focused on Jess’ bonds (or the lack thereof) with people genetically related to her.
- Saro-Wiwa, Ken. Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English. New York: Longman Publishing Group, 2011. Print.
- Exploration of The Icarus Girl will lead into a discussion of ghostliness, figured largely as a condition of hybridity and being in-between places or states, in Sozaboy. My conference paper will focus on Mene with regard to language and his connections to physical places (treated in the same vein as Jess).
- Brah, Avtar. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.
- This book is an examination of diaspora with special attention given to gender and race. Although this text largely focuses on Asian and female experiences, I am drawn to its (comparatively brief) investigation into the concept of diaspora. Specifically, I am interested in diaspora as an uncomfortable state of hybridity troubled by feelings of abjection, isolation, and uncanniness—homelessness, essentially. Cartographies of Diaspora suits my purposes since it addresses the notion of diaspora on multiple levels of location—global, local, “home”—as well as in terms of hybridity.
- Cousins, Helen. “Helen Oyeyemi and the Yoruba Gothic: White Is For Witching.” Journal of Commonwealth Literature1 (2012): 47-58. Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Web.
- This text views Oyeyemi’s regular use of the Yoruba Gothic as a method of highlighting the pervasiveness of diversity in England—a diversity overlooked or opposed in narratives of racial and national purity. One of the things I’m drawn to in article is the presence of European gothic fiction history and how the fears that (largely) last throughout the tradition conflict with Oyeyemi’s contemporary efforts. Although Cousin focuses on Oyeyemi’s vampire novel for the most part (a move that encourages giving attention to the history of vampires in European gothic), she is able to link the Abiku myth to the matters at hand through themes of all-consuming hunger. I would like to be able to treat The Icarus Girl with due regard to the cultures behind and informing it.
- Cuder-Dominguez, Pilar. “Double Consciousness in the Work of Helen Oyeyemi and Diana Evans.” Women3 (2009): 277-86. Academic Search Complete. Web.
- This article analyzes The Icarus Girl as a diasporic novel and example of bildungsroman. “Double Consciousness” reads location with insight into historical and cultural details, providing information about the relationship between Nigeria and England as well as what life could’ve been like for a child like Jess in London. I appreciate Cuder-Domínguez’s text as something that could fill in blind spots in my knowledge and enrich my concerns by factoring in historical and cultural things in the novel (and not) that would otherwise fly over my head.
- Gunning, Dave. “Dissociation, Spirit Possession, and the Languages of Trauma in Some Recent African-British Novels.” Research in African Literatures4 (2015): 119-32. Literature Resource Center. Web.
- Gunning’s text reads the conflict of the supernatural and medical (Abiku and possession juxtaposing dissociative disorder) present in The Icarus Girl as a meeting between the “African” and “Western” where neither is given privilege. I’m fascinated by the article’s analyzation of the different diagnoses Jess is given and where said diagnoses and possible cures come from. This article presents another layer of Jess’ hybridity to consider.
- Mafe, Diana Adesola. “Ghostly Girls in the ‘Eerie Bush’: Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl as Postcolonial Female Gothic Fiction.” Research in African Literatures3 (2012): 21-35. Literature Resource Center. Web.
- Like many of my other sources, “Eerie Bush” addresses postcolonial hybridity through a gothic lens. For the most part, I’m attracted to the information this text can provide on Jess’ position with regard to Yoruba culture. I also value the text’s focus on hybridity and uncanniness as ideas on the latter are something I often have difficultly articulating.
- North, Michael. “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: The Politics of ‘Rotten English.” Public Culture1 (2001): 97-112. Project MUSE. Web.
- North’s article is extremely beneficial to me as commentary on the presence of “rotten” English and the dynamics between Mene’s language and big grammar. I’m intrigued by the notion that language in Sozaboy can “register the untranslatable” in terms of national and personal experience (102). Given that my goal is to consider what the kinds of language in the novel say about hybridity and cultural contact, I will likely draw on North’s ideas about the reception or presentation of different types of English in the novel and the affect said types have on characters.
- Stouck, Jordan. “Abjecting Hybridity in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl.” Ariel2 (2010): 89-112. Literature Resource Center. Web.
- Here, Stouck applies the assertion that cultural hybridity is a state of abjection and stigmatization to The Icarus Girl. Stouck and I are basically on the same page in terms of hybridity, and I am particularly interested in the author’s focus on subjectivity and the attention given to the roles history (personal and Nigerian-English) and language play in Jess’ fractured state. Through this article, I believe I could situate and support my argument, as well as strengthen the bond between The Icarus Girl and Sozaboy.