„I Have Known Rivers”: Traumatic Memory and the Postcolonial Kunstlerroman: A Reading of Paule Marshall’s Triangular Road
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The kunstlerroman or „artist novel” unlike the related bildungsroman (novel of growth and development) has not received wide critical attention. Yet it may be interesting in the study of the novel to engage with sub-genres such as the kunstlerroman, especially since it traces the development of the artist, his/her arts and perspective. This paper is interested in exploring the kunstlerroman from a postcolonial viewpoint. Specifically, this paper focuses on how a memory of traumatic events and experiences contribute in the development of Paule Marshall’s artistic skill as expressed in her novel Triangular Road. It therefore engages with issues such as the place of individual and collective traumatic memory, the question of apprenticeship and how it is played out in the postcolonial variant of the kunsttlerroman. It is also focused on how different the postcolonial kunstlerroman is different from the European version and what explains this difference. The main argument is that Marshall’s Triangular Road is a postcolonial kunstlerroman which traces her growth and development to artistic maturity, guided by her apprenticeship and against a backdrop of intrusive memories of the traumas and pains of her people. Therefore it insists that the postcolonial artist unlike those of the colonizing countries is largely influenced and formed by a series of traumatic events whose memories are triggered by „trauma buttons” and which push them in the present to pick up their pens. It underlines the fact that there is a close relationship between trauma, memory and the artistic development of Paule Marshall as expressed in Triangular Road which this paper considers as the postcolonial kunstlerroman par excellence.
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