The fiction of Zee Edgell
: memory, gender, and the legacy of transatlantic slavery

  • Jessica Hamlin

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis critically assesses the specific ways in which the past is reworked, remembered, buried and forgotten in the Central American country of Belize through engagement with fictional texts by Belizean author, Zee Edgell. Identifying Belize as a neglected colonial site, the project interrogates the ways in which Edgell’s imaginative literature confronts the country’s heavily mythologised past. The production of this mythologised past – most notably, the national ‘‘myth of origin’’ - is critically analysed in order to understand how it has prevailed in Belize from the colonial to the postcolonial period. Developing an interdisciplinary analytical framework that draws on memory studies, postcolonial literary theory and historical studies, the project considers how Edgell’s novels challenge dominant historical narrative in Belize, whilst addressing the marginalised voices of Belizean women as a counter to dominant patriarchal nationalist discourses. Through contrasting analyses of colonial and postcolonial histories, and a detailed inquiry into the gaps and omissions present in the colonial archive, this project demonstrates the pervasive power of the origin myth and investigates the ways in which a dominant version of history has been produced and maintained. The thesis argues that Edgell’s novels give voice to difficult and traumatic memories about the past, specifically those connected with the legacy of transatlantic slavery. At the same time, Edgell redresses the marginalised position of women in Belize and their absence in national cultural narratives.

    The project is significant for its interdisciplinary interrogation of colonially-derived cultural memory in a hitherto neglected Caribbean site. Whilst Belize is beginning to come to terms with the less palatable aspects of its past, this engagement is relatively recent, and the origin myth which has come to define Belize’s history continues to be ideologically, politically and socially powerful. This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge through its exploration of the ‘myth of origin’ through the analysis of literature, a project which has previously been unexplored by Belizean historians and Belizean/Caribbean literary critics. The project also broadens the relatively small field of critics who have addressed Edgell’s fiction, and critically assesses Edgell’s novels through the lens of memory and slavery. It is also one of the first to assess Edgell’s novels as a body of work and represents an original investigation into an under researched aspect of the canon of Caribbean women’s writing.
    Date of AwardJul 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorAnita Rupprecht (Supervisor) & Catherine Bergin (Supervisor)

    Cite this