Writing Oceanic Bodies: Corporeal Representations in the Works of Déwé Gorodé, Claudine Jacques, and Chantal T. Spitz

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Frengs, Julia Lynne
Orlando, Valerie K
Oceanic women's bodies have been objects of fascination throughout centuries of Western literature. European voyagers of the eighteenth century lauded the exotic Tahitian female body, while in the nineteenth century, the Kanak (indigenous New Caledonian) body was frequently dehumanized and regarded as uncivilized. Indeed, much Western literature prior to the second half of the twentieth century has portrayed an imagined, culturally produced Oceanic body that became a stereotype in what Edward Said would call an Orientalist discourse. This dominant Orientalist discourse has, until recently, overshadowed the voices of Oceanic peoples. This project examines the representation of the body in the texts of three contemporary Francophone Oceanic women writers who successfully communicate their individual perceptions on Oceanic identity. Since the 1980s, Kanak writer Déwé Gorodé (1949), Caledonian writer Claudine Jacques (1953), and Tahitian writer Chantal T. Spitz (1954) have produced an explicitly Oceanic perspective and style in a writing that is distinct from other French and Francophone literatures. This project examines violence, specifically sexual violence, and treatments of the damaged body in the literature of Gorodé, Jacques, and Spitz, who turn the body into a political instrument. The display of sexual violence in these works forces the body into a public position, fostering a discussion and critique of the politics of Oceanic communities. Additionally, this dissertation discusses the political body, which is often either represented as in isomorphism with the land, or as rupturing the confinement endured in colonial-imposed institutions. Also addressed are the fragile silence and enunciations of identity in the texts of Jacques, Gorodé, and Spitz. Because both the Kanak and Tahitian cultures have a strong oral tradition, the question of silence imposed by the Western privileging of the written word features heavily in Oceanic writing, but as this project will reveal, the silence that has permeated the communities of French-speaking Oceania is a complicated and delicate silence. The aim of this work is to examine the contemporary configurations of an Oceanic body in the works of Déwé Gorodé, Claudine Jacques, and Chantal T. Spitz: a body that transgresses boundaries, destabilizes myths, and refuses objectification.