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Research Article: Re-living Motherhood: Vocalizing Grief, Trauma and Loss in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis
Kai Erikson defines individual trauma as “a blow to the psyche that breaks through one’s defenses…with such brutal force that one cannot react to it effectively… [one] with [draws] into [oneself], feeling numbed, afraid, vulnerable, and very alone.” Lilith Iyapo in Octavia Butler’s science fiction trilogy, Xenogenesis, is a traumatized victim, who awakens “feeling numbed, afraid, vulnerable, and very alone,” devastated by the loss of her son in a car accident. My paper looks at the haunting of this loss as it resonates in Lilith’s psyche, as itinerant intrusions of an inescapable, relentless memory. Flashbacks of Lilith’s memory, that come and go, beg a vocalizing of her grief that demands a release through language, through telling her story—thereby dealing with the trauma. But the brutal blow to her psyche renders her virtually speechless and refuses an easy access to the past. So the story of Lilith, barricaded from a direct dealing with her past, takes recourse to different forms of story-telling—where retrieval of the past becomes an act of re-memory in which elision plays a formidable role. When every remembering becomes an act of forgetting, as Mahmud Darwish puts it, access to the past requires the generation of multiple stories; in fact, a re-situating of the primary loss in different milieus that calls for a creative listening and understanding by its readers. In the case of Lilith the traumatic loss of her child requires her to be reincarnated, a number of times, as a mother figure. It calls for a splitting of motherhood into two related entities—the surrogate and the biological mother—that compete and later converge to valorize the trope of motherhood that not only forms the core of the different stories but becomes the only way to survive the trauma.
Romancing the Strange: The Fiction of Kunal Basu, eds. Aparajita Nanda et al. Avantgarde Press, 2004.
"Writing the Self in‚ Heterotopic Spaces: Reading Woman at Point Zero."From the Cradle to the Grave. Ed. Coelsch-Foisner and Herbe. Heidelberg:U Press of Heidelberg, 2011.
"Of a ‘Voice’ and ‘Bodies’: A Post-colonial critique of Meena Alexander’sNampally Road”. Bodies and Voices. Eds. Martin Leer et al. Amsterdam &New York: Rodopi Press, 2008.
"Identity Politics and the Voice of Autobiography in Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Café”. Fiction and Autobiography. Eds Coelsch-Foisner & Gortschacher. Vol.3 Salzburg: U of Salzburg Publication, 2006.
“Re-writing the Bhabhian “Mimic Man”: Akin, the Post Human Other in Butler’s Adulthood Rites” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, Vol 41, 2010.