Michelle Cliff's fiction: Rescuing the past, engendering frontier consciousness

Date of Completion

January 2008


Literature, Modern|Black Studies|Literature, Caribbean|Women's Studies|Literature, American




Michelle Cliff is a contemporary author of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and three novels to date. Born in Jamaica, and raised in Jamaica and the United States, Cliff's life and work span the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, exploring and expanding our understanding of the historical legacies of colonialism and imperialism. The dissertation examines the characterization of what has come to be termed "the margins" as a frontier from and through which resistant consciousness can develop. Cliff's work provides unique perspectives on race, class, and gender as related to personal and political agency and empowerment. The dissertation explores the validation of various alternative forms of knowledge, such as stories, myths, artifacts, and memory in Cliff's novels, particularly as an example of the unique way in which postcolonial women writers mine the rich vein of imagination in the intersection of history and literature. Writers, such as Cliff, Toni Morrison, and others re-vision historical events, people, and circumstances in order to transform the record of political and social agency and resistance to tyranny. Their work imaginatively recovers lost and buried fragments and information, providing foundations for and sustenance to the resistance by the "other" on the "margins" to imperialist oppression. I argue that Cliff's novels provide powerful contemporary examples of resistance literature, and that Cliff's work valorizes, encourages, and fosters a resistant or frontier consciousness. ^