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Dr. Maha Marouan will give a lecture on "The Commodification of Francophone Female Subjectivities in the Global North: Maryse Conde's I, Tituba and Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes Memory."

Condé’s Moi, Tituba, sorcière… Noire de Salem (1986) was translated into English in 1992 as I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem and Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) was translated into French as Le cri de l'oiseau rouge in 1995. In both novels, the translation and packaging become tangible forms through which postcolonial female subjectivities are being articulated. Maryse Condé’s Moi, Tituba was commodified to suit an audience of white French women. It earned Condé France’s Grand Prix Littéraire de la Femme, classifying her as a writer of Women’s fiction. This classification proves ironic since a detailed reading exposes the novel as a parody of white feminist writing. The English translation, however, was marketed as a historical narrative and became instantly tied in with African American slave narratives. Danticat’s novel, selected for Oprah Book Club, was commodified to appeal to women of color audiences. The back cover highlighted Danticat’s Haitian ethnicity, “A distinctive voice with a sensitive insight into Haitian culture…” and a blurb by Julia Alvarez “Breath, Eyes, Memory is the Haitian-American novel I was waiting for.” The translation to French, however, opted for a catchier title, Le cri de l'oiseau rouge (The Cry of the Red Bird) and the back cover omited any references to Danticat’s ethnicity coining her simply as an American talent. In this talk I will explore how translation and packaging strategies manipulate postcolonial subjectivities and play on the politics of ethnicity to target specific gendered and racial audiences.

This lecture is part of a series of events cosponsored by the Mellon Humanities for Life Grant, the Margaret Parkhurst Morey Fund of the French Program, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the River Campus Libraries

Maha Marouan is a Moroccan feminist writer, documentarian and scholar at the Pennsylvania State University. Some of her publications include "Shame" a short story at the Boston Review (2019), Witches, Goddesses and Angry Spirits: The Politics of Spiritual Liberation in African Diaspora Women’s Fiction, (Ohio State University Press, 2013), a co-edited volume on Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013), and a documentary  Voices of Muslim Women in the US South (Women Make Movies, New York, 2016).  

"Shame" by Dr. Maha Marouan is available at this link

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  • BENJAMIN MITCHELL

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