Turner, Mary Elizabeth
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The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique endured a particularly tumultuous history of slavery under both British and French regimes, resulting in an uneasy emancipation for both islands finally in 1848. Unlike their sister island, Haiti, these two territories never won their independence from France and opted instead, in 1946, to become actual French departments in the same manner as the mainland departments such as Provence and Normandy. It is the contention of this dissertation that the brutal imposition of slavery and its vicissitudinous administration across some two hundred years resulted in a population that still suffers from what Joy DeGruy Leary terms Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, which has been transmitted intergenerationally and that the vestiges of this syndrome can still be found in their dramatic literature. This study will focus solely on several Guadeloupean and Martincan women playwrights—Ina Césaire, Maryse Condé, Gerty Dambury, Daniely Francisque, Gilda Gonfier and Michèle Montantin— because the feminine perspective provides an incisive lens into the intimate ravages of slavery and into the ongoing effects of slave trauma on present-day family life, interpersonal relationships, and cultural practices, and because this vital perspective of the woman writer has been eclipsed by male writers and consequently silenced until recently in the French Caribbean literary world. While amply demonstrating the presence of PTSS in their cultures, these playwrights also exhibit in their plays a determination to resist and quell those effects through their robust embrace of their Creole culture and in their willing acceptance of a mission to rebuild a cultural memory and a collective consciousness for their societies.